IT’S unclear how a North East program helping mothers battling mental illness during and after their pregnancy will be affected now that half its funding has been cut.
The Federal Government will not renew a funding agreement with the states and territories to provide care for women with perinatal depression, stripping $1.9 million from Victoria.
Albury Wodonga Health receives $300,000 from the state and federal government to run its Perinatal Emotional Health Program throughout the North East each year.
However, the Victorian government will continue to fund its half of the program ($150,000).
“It’s such short notice because we found out 48 hours ago, but we are working on a solution,” Albury Wodonga Health chief executive Susan O’Neill said.
“AWH is committed to ensuring the future of this program and are examining all potential funding options.
“To be clear, we are not stopping (this program) but need to work on a daily basis to see how we continue it.”
The program provides care to more than 100 women and their families.
The initiative, which started in 2009, has increased the early detection and prevention of post and antenatal depression, providing better and easier access to support and counselling.
Adjunct professor O’Neill said AWH was seeking Commonwealth Government support to reinstate the funding that ends on June 30.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said the Commonwealth’s contribution to the NPDI was only intended to be used by the states for ‘back-of-house training, up-skilling and service improvement’, not frontline services.
“The Victorian Government was funding frontline services prior to the national partnership agreement and it remains their responsibility.
“The Abbott Government invests over $1.9 million in frontline perinatal services to Victoria and there has been no change to this.”
Figures show one in six women experience depression, anxiety or both in the year after birth, and one in 10 during pregnancy.
Victoria’s Minister for Mental Health, Martin Foley, called the cuts “heartless”.
“We know that pregnancy and early parenting can trigger serious mental illness for many women,” he said.
“Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Sussan Ley dropped this bombshell on us on without any consultation.
“We will need to assess how best to respond, but the states do not have the ability to endlessly backfill the cuts the Abbott Government is making to the services that care for our most vulnerable people.”
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