The West

Extra Federal Government money to address the growing suicide toll in the Kimberley has been tied up in red tape instead of improving mental health services on the ground, the Opposition claims.

Despite a pledge in April to fast-track $6 million for suicide prevention services for Aboriginal people, answers to Opposition questions on notice reveal the money is yet to be spent.

The Health Department told a Senate estimates committee last month it was "finalising the establishment of an advisory group that will provide advice on the best way to target this investment in suicide prevention activity specific to indigenous communities".

Opposition indigenous health spokesman Andrew Laming said it was appalling the Government was taking so long to boost services after the rise in suicides.

"We are now five months on from this announcement, and absolutely nothing has been delivered to the Kimberley region," Dr Laming said.

A spokeswoman for Mental Health Minister Mark Butler said the Government was taking immediate action to tackle suicide in the Kimberley.

She said the Kimberley Division of General Practice had its funding increased 216 per cent to $779,000 in 2011-12 to improve access to suicide prevention and mental health services.

"A funding agreement has been signed and this funding is now being provided to the Kimberley Division of General Practice to deliver services," she said.

A coroner's inquest was told last month the remote Aboriginal East Kimberley community of Balgo, which has 450 residents, had a suicide rate of one for every 112 people - more than 89 times higher than the State average.

Psychologists have again criticised the Federal Government's budget cuts to some mental health services.

Psychologists Association secretary Quentin Black said the Government was allowing "prominent media performers" to guide mental health policy and was ignoring other experts' advice.

The West Australian

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