By SOPHIE SCOTT.
Young people will be turned away from clinics of popular youth mental health service Headspace because funding has been frozen, experts warn.
Documents obtained by the ABC show the federal Department of Health has told the centres their funding will not be indexed and it will remain the same for 2015-16.
Professor Ian Hickie from the Brain and Mind Research Institute, which runs one of Australia’s busiest Headspace centres at the University of Sydney, said he was worried young people would miss out on crucial mental health services.
“Because of the funds freeze in indexation, we are not able to replace clinical staff who have left in recent times,” he said.
“We have had to make it clear to all staff that we cannot guarantee their positions over the next 12 months, pending resolution of the total amounts to be received from Headspace.
“These are staff directly employed under the Headspace grant to assess young people presenting with mental health difficulties.”
Headspace provides mental health services for people aged 12 to 25.
Many of the busy centres in cities and outer regional centres already face long waiting lists and struggle with being able to treat more complex cases.
Headspace chief executive Chris Tanti said the Government had given Headspace and other mental health groups a 12-month funding guarantee.
“If you have a mortgage and kids and are working in mental health then you will be worried about your income. We have lost staff over it,” he said.
While there were some waiting lists at some Headspace centres, Mr Tanti said the organisation was doing a “reasonably good job” of meeting demand.
“We do have waiting lists and that is suboptimal. But we are not in a crisis,” he said.
“We are looking at different ways to minimise waiting times such as offering more brief counselling and using private practice, so young people can be seen through the Medicare Benefits Schedule.”
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