What is the current level of mental health service delivery and expenditure on infants, children, adolescents, and young people in Australia?

Leonie Segal, Sophie Guy, Gareth Furber

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Objectives: The study aim was to estimate the current level of ambulatory mental health service delivery to young people aged 0–24 years in Australia and associated government expenditure. Recognising the importance of the early years for the development of mental illness and socioeconomic outcomes, we were particularly interested in service access by infants and young children. Methods: We extracted information from government administrative datasets on the number of people who received mental health services, number of services and expenditure through the health sector for 2014–2015. Results are primarily reported by age groups 0–4, 5–11, 12–17 and 18–24 years. Results: Less than 1% of 0- to 4-year-olds received a mental health service in any one service setting, whereas nearly 11% of 18- to 24-year-olds received a mental health service through the Medicare Benefits Schedule Better Access programme alone. Many more services were delivered to 12- to 24-year-olds (>4 million) than to 0- to 11-year-olds (552,000). Medicare Benefits Schedule Better Access delivers services to more children and youth than do state/territory community mental health services, although the latter provide more services per client. In 2013–2014, Australian Government expenditure on ambulatory mental health services for 0- to 24-year-olds was AUD428 million, similar to the AUD491 million spent by state/territory governments. Conclusion: The study provides a benchmark for data-driven service planning to ensure that the mental health needs of infants, children and young people are met. Our results indicate that the youngest age group are underserviced relative to need, even noting infants and children may receive services for behavioural/mental health issues from providers not captured in our study (such as paediatricians). The developmental origins of mental illness underlies the urgency of adequate provision by governments of perinatal, infant and child mental health services to avoid loss of life potential and reduce the pressures on the justice, child protection and welfare systems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)163-172
    Number of pages10
    JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


    • Mental health services
    • administrative data
    • child and adolescent
    • service use

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Psychiatry and Mental health

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