JMR WITH HEALTH MINISTER GREG HUNT

The Australian Government will provide an additional $31.9 million to create 15 mental health clinics across Victoria and further enhance essential support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

$26.9 million of the new funding will establish 15 dedicated mental health clinics across Victoria, with nine clinics in Greater Melbourne and six in regional Victoria.

Senator for Victoria Sarah Henderson said the clinics will be located at existing GP clinics, headspace centres or other community sites where people usually access general health care, with a list of locations to be announced in the coming weeks.

“The Australian Government recognises the ongoing Victorian restrictions needed to stop the spread of the virus are having a significant impact on the mental health of individuals and communities in Victoria,” Senator Henderson said.

“The clinics will support GPs by providing access to multidisciplinary teams of mental health workers, including psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers, and alcohol and drug workers.

“The clinics will provide on-site mental health support, but may also arrange referrals to more intensive mental health care or social supports if needed. This could include referral into emergency care or into an in-patient facility in a private hospital.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there had been a concerning rise in self-harm injuries presenting to hospital, and a spike in the use of services like Beyond Blue, Lifeline and Kids Helpline.

“While we’re fighting the spread of this virus in Victoria we also need to guard against the devastating mental health impacts it is having,” the Prime Minister said.

“This package is about helping people access mental health support as early as possible and as conveniently as possible.

“To assist co-ordination on the ground in Victoria, Premier Andrews and I have agreed to establish a new Victorian Mental Health Taskforce to ensure the latest initiatives are implemented quickly.

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said, “The clinics will play a key role in supporting our emergency departments, hospitals and GPs by providing accessible mental health care in the local community.”

“The 15 clinics will also enable Commonwealth funded Primary Health Networks (PHNs) in Victoria to provide mental health support to older Victorians and those in the aged care system.

“Residents, their families and carers, will be able to access mental health workers, including psychologists, at these clinics either in person, or via telephone or digital services where needed. This is in addition to the $82.5 million the Australian Government has provided through PHNs for in-reach psychological services in residential aged care facilities.”

In addition to the clinics, $5 million in funding will also be provided to enhance digital and phone services for specific groups that are experiencing significant challenges during the additional restrictions. This includes those living with an eating disorder where physical isolation at home can greatly exacerbate their mental illness.

Our Government has responded early and rapidly to address the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

These new measures build on the significant additional mental health support provided, including 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people subject to further restrictions, and the more than $500 million additional funding for mental health and suicide prevention announced since January, including Medicare subsidies for telehealth consultations.

We continue to demonstrate our firm commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians, with estimated expenditure for mental health services and suicide prevention to be more than $5.2 billion in 2019-20.

17 August 2020