SA clashes with feds over mental health

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says the South Australian government is responsible for the imminent closure of dozens of mental health beds.

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SA Mental Health Minister Leesa Vlahos has appealed to the federal government to extend two funding agreements worth $20 million a year until 2018.

She says community service provider Neami will be forced to close 34 beds across metropolitan Adelaide within weeks if the funding is not restored.

Ms Vlahos also cast doubt on the future of 20 community rehabilitation beds in Whyalla and Mount Gambier, as well as 10 step-down beds in Adelaide’s north used for patients leaving secure mental health facilities.

“We’ve been trying to talk to the federal government about this for a number of months,” she told ABC radio on Thursday.

“These community facilities just can’t be kept holding until the federal government decides it’s going to stump in at the last minute.”

But Ms Ley said the state government was well aware the agreements were coming to an end and should have prepared accordingly.

She said the comments from Ms Vlahos were a “deliberate attempt to deceive South Australians”, who would still receive support through new funding arrangements.

“It’s more a reflection on the mess the Weatherill government is making of health that they’ve been caught out panicking at the last minute when they’ve had five years to plan for this transition,” Ms Ley said in a statement.

“Ms Vlahos would be better focused on asking the premier and health minister why South Australia is no longer committed to funding mental health services or hospital rehabilitation and respite beds.”