- Thousands of Australians seeking help for mental health problems face growing uncertainty because federal funding for hundreds of contracts has not been guaranteed after June 30.
- A man had denied a charge he murdered another psychiatric patient while in the mental health ward of an Adelaide hospital.
- New, cutting-edge prenatal screening technology is about to become available in Australia for the first time, with a non-invasive blood test allowing expecting parents to screen for chromosomal disorders like Down syndrome.
News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 25th March 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.
Thousands of Australians seeking help for mental health problems face growing uncertainty because federal funding for hundreds of contracts has not been guaranteed after June 30.
Seventy mental health groups, including Mental Health Australia, Headspace, and the Black Dog Institute have written an open letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Health Minister Sussan Ley.
The letter reads: “We have not received any definitive advice regarding the future of programs.”
“Some agencies have indicated that without this advice, they will have to give staff notice of termination of employment in a matter of days.
“This ongoing uncertainty is causing a huge disruption to organisations and increasingly, deep anxiety amongst the people they serve.”
The National Mental Health Commission has completed a major review of the mental health sector, which is currently with Ms Ley but no date has been set for its release.
One provider, the MindSpot Clinic, already told patients free online and telephone support may not be available after April 15 due to funding uncertainty.
MindSpot is a free service for Australian adults with stress, worry, anxiety, low mood or depression.
MindSpot director Professor Nick Titov said the uncertainty is concerning for both staff and patients.
The service has helped 30,000 people and is seeing 300 to 400 new people each week, half of them from rural and regional areas where there are no face-to-face mental health services.
Ms Ley says the Government is finalising immediate funding arrangements as part of its commitment to give mental health organisations certainty as soon as possible.
She said the report would be released soon.
Mental Health Australia chief executive Frank Quinlan said the sector needed clarification on funding and hoped the Prime Minister and Health Minister acted quickly to resolve the issue.
A man had denied a charge he murdered another psychiatric patient while in the mental health ward of an Adelaide hospital.
Lindon Luke Sekrst, 24, appeared in court by video link.
It is alleged staff found him using his foot to crush the throat of another man he shared a room with at Noarlunga Hospital last August.
Sekrst’s lawyer urged the magistrate to grant home detention bail, citing a psychiatrist’s view that Sekrst’s mental health had improved.
But the magistrate rejected a proposed bail address as unsuitable.
She found there was a case to answer.
Sekrst pleaded not guilty to murder and the case now will go before the South Australian Supreme Court next month.
New, cutting-edge prenatal screening technology is about to become available in Australia for the first time, with a non-invasive blood test allowing expecting parents to screen for chromosomal disorders like Down syndrome.
The new, non-invasive blood test has only been available for two years, and up until now only via American companies at a substantial cost.
But the test is about to be offered by Victorian Clinical Genetic Services, a not-for-profit provider of genetic testing, based at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne.
Medical director David Amor said there were good reasons to offer the test in Australia.
The company has invested in two machines at a cost of about $250,000 each, which will allow it to deliver the test in Victoria.
Associate Professor Amor anticipated the cost and time the test took would drop with it being offered locally.
“When testing was first offered in Australia it was up towards $2,000 and that was only two years ago,” he said.
“We’ve seen the cost decrease to around the $500 mark at the moment so I think by any standards that’s a dramatic reduction in cost.
While the new test currently only looks for chromosomal disorders, it is anticipated to develop quickly to include other potential abnormalities and disorders.
Many women are already choosing the test, despite the cost.
However, the non-invasive prenatal test is not without its issues.
The test can reveal the sex of a foetus much earlier than previous non-invasive tests and that has led to some concern about the governance and ethics of its use.
Also, genetic testing is currently focused mostly on known genetic abnormalities, but as the testing technology advances it will be able to detect more and more anomalies about which less is known.
Genetic experts say in the not-too-distant future, prospective parents may end up with results that give a risk factor for a potential disability, which may pose more questions than the test can answer.
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