VHA welcomes mental health funding boost

April 12, 2020

The Victorian Healthcare Association welcomes today’s announcement by the Victorian Government of a $59.4m boost to mental health funding, as the Premier announced the State of Emergency would continue for an additional four weeks.

The package announced today by Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Mental Health, Martin Foley, includes a range of measures aimed at ensuring people continue to receive care in the right place and at the right time, helping to secure more capacity in the public hospital system to fight coronavirus.

Chief Executive of the VHA, Tom Symondson, says additional funding to enable mental health services to deliver more supports for people with severe mental illness via phone and video was essential to preventing avoidable hospital admission.

‘While we must continue to practise social distancing to limit the spread of the virus, we know that isolation and loneliness can be very damaging to people’s mental health and wellbeing, including both those with existing mental health conditions and those who are experiencing mental health issues for the first time.

‘By boosting funding to programs that help people to connect or to stay connected to the treatment and services they need, we also ensure we continue to take pressure off our public hospitals,’ says Mr Symondson.

Mr Symondson says today’s announcement includes funding to provide vulnerable people and those high-risk clients of mental health services with support including access to mobile phones and data, and will provide community managed mental health services with access to grants for equipment and IT so they can provide services remotely.

‘Victoria’s 28 registered community health services have always provided important supports to the State’s most vulnerable populations and throughout this response have been undertaking practical outreach to some of the people most at-risk in our community, ensuring they have the supports they need to combat social isolation and loneliness.

‘These services know just how tough the situation is for people right now; it’s incredibly positive to see that the Victorian Government has funded expansion of the coronavirus phone line to provide even more emotional and practical support to people who are known to be isolated or vulnerable.’

With the Royal Commission into Mental Health having taken the preventative measure of cancelling its second and final round of public hearings in response to coronavirus, the VHA applauds the government’s decision to today fund and progress reforms recommended in the Interim Report, which are now more important than ever.

‘A $17.8 million commitment to begin the roll-out of 170 additional adult and youth mental health beds in public hospitals is an example of a reform that just cannot be put on hold and, on behalf of the health sector, we welcome government’s commitment to progress this important initiative as well as other essential programs such as the state-wide roll-out of the Hospital Outreach Post-Suicidal Engagement program, at a time when people are at their most vulnerable,’ Mr Symondson says.

‘In announcing today’s funding, the Victorian Government is not only providing the health system with funding to deliver services to the many people who need care right now, it is demonstrating great foresight, ensuring the wellbeing of our community is in a strong position for our recovery following this crisis.’