Sharp criticism has been levelled at a regional community health organisation for including a $180k corporate levy charge in its bid for part of the Baillieu Government’s $4 million funding package for mental health and suicide prevention services to assist rural same-sex attracted and gender questioning young people (SSAGQ).

The corporate levy fee is charged at a rate of 30 percent of the overall $600k funding bid put in by Cobaw Community Health Service which auspices SSAGQ support group, the WayOut Project.

SSAGQ youth mental health advocate Rob Mitchell said the corporate levy proposal is a “waste of money” that should go into frontline services.

“We’ve got to make every dollar count,” Mitchell told the Star Observer.

“Unless we get this right … we will end up with a result that is worse than not doing anything, because what will happen is this money will be chewed up, it won’t get a result on the ground and people will be running around wanting to take credit for no results.”

The corporate fee charges proposed by Cobaw Community Health include IT, administration, finance and payroll, and office costs.

“I believe Cobaw has the infrastructure set up,” Mitchell said.

“What I’m profoundly unhappy about is, at the end of the day, a fairly frugal amount of money we have to make go a long way. It’s not fair on us as a community to pay for the sins of the organisation because it’s not properly funded.”

Cowbaw Community Health CEO Anne McLennan defended the proposed fee, saying the amount is standard practice for health services delivering additional services and all programs were charged at the 30 percent rate.

“Any organisation does that. You can’t run an organisation unless you can cover those costs,” McLennan told the Star Observer.

“Most of us in the health sector are running either break-even or deficit budgets, so if we didn’t recoup some of those from every program we’d operate, we’d all be closing our doors.”

McLennan said Cowbaw Community Health was running “close to the bone” and had posted budget deficits on and off for the last five years.

“All community health services are in the same boat,” she said.

“It’s just very tight from year to year. We’re always chasing new funding and any new funding that then doesn’t contribute to corporate costs will just make the situation worse, we can’t carry a new piece of funding, it creates new costs.”

Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge is yet to announce where the $4 million will go.

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