Less than 0.2 per cent of North Yorkshire County Council’s (NYCC) public health budget is spent on preventing mental health problems, figures have revealed.
A Freedom of Information request from the Harrogate Advertiser found that just £30,000 was allocated on mental health servives for 2014-15 out of a £19,732,500 grant.
Almost £6m has been allocated on sexual health with around £5m allocated on smoking and obesity, however some of the budget will be spent on dementia prevention activities.
The figures represent a worrying national trend after the charity Mind recently revealed that English local authorities spend less than 1.5 per cent on mental health problems.
Coun Don Mackenzie, executive member for public health and prevention, stressed that the council was ‘increasing expenditure’ to deal with the problem but admitted ‘more needs to be done’.
He said: “For mental health, there is a small amount directly spent on it from the public health budget, but much of it comes from the general health system, the NHS and today the CCG.
“We recognise the importance of introducing measures to prevent mental health problems and to mitigate the effect of the disease.
“That is why we are increasing expenditure in this field as we develop a distinctive public health service for North Yorkshire.
“The Director of Public Health and his team have an important role as advisors to the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in their work to fight mental health problems.
“Our health services recognise this growing problem and in many cases have made mental health one of their top priorities.
“Everyone recognises all too well that mental health is going to be an increasing problem for us all so we have to have a robust strategy in place to combat it. That is why there is going to be the start of a consultation on mental health strategies.”
Coun Mackenzie said that £150,000 had been allocated to mental health from the draft budget expenditure for 2015/16, however this would still be less than 1 per cent of this year’s public health budget.
Public Health England have estimated that approximately 78,000 residents in North Yorkshire have depression while 36,000 accessed secondary mental health services in 2013.
Councils took over responsibility for preventing physical and mental health problems in their communities from primary care trusts in 2013 and North Yorkshire have made strides in recognising the dangers of adverse mental health.
In the director of public health’s annual report for 2015, Dr Lincoln Sergeant stressed that the council would be ‘developing a mental health strategy to ensure residents of all ages can get help and support when needed’.
However, Dr Sergeant said there were ‘recognised gaps’ in the provision of mental health services and the CCGs have identified the need to ‘increase investment’ to areas such as improving access to psychological therapies.
Coun Mackenzie said: “We all have to recognise that we will have to spend more money on mental health, but it’s not always a case of having to throw money at things.
“Many other PH interventions during this year will also address mental health indirectly - for example, our work in combating the effects of loneliness and isolation, which are a factor in causing mental health problems.
“I’m sure the spending on mental health will increase, however whilst mental health is very vital for public health, we don’t have millions allocated towards it.
“It has to become a greater priority for our health service because not enough money is being spent providing mental health services or treating problems when people have got them.”
Coun Mackenzie said that ‘as the population gets older’ mental health services would have to improve but also recognised it’s affect on younger people.
At least 8,000 children between five and 16 will have a mental health disorder in North Yorkshire and the county councillor recognised there were ‘obvious pressures upon them’.
However, in his report, Dr Sergeant admitted access to specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health(CAMH) services is ‘not optimal’ and there is a ‘lack of provision’ for prevention and early intervention services.
An implementation plan for the Children and Young People’s Emotional and Mental Health Strategy, 2014-17, is currently being developed to address this.
Suicide prevention, support for the travelling communities as well as social isolation and loneliness will be targeted in the public health budget.
The council has also set up a £1m Innovation Fund to support projects around North Yorkshire to tackle the problem of loneliness.
Over a third (37 per cent) of people aged 65 and over in North Yorkshire are living alone, and Mr Mackenzie said the voluntary services tackling this will have a ‘good effect on mental health.’