26 September 2023

New Budget funds help mental health ahead

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Accessing mental health care in Victoria is to be made easier with a raft on new initiatives funded through the Victorian Budget 2022/23.

Announced by Minister for Mental Health, James Merlino, the State’s mental health workforce is to undergo a “massive expansion” with the hiring of more than 1,500 mental health workers, including 400 mental health nurses, 100 psychiatrists and 300 psychologists.

“Without the dedicated professionals who care for Victorians every day, the mental health system doesn’t exist – that’s why our work to build the mental health system is underpinned by a massive expansion to the mental health workforce,” Mr Merlino said.

“The Royal Commission told us that when it comes to accessing mental health care, Victorians don’t know where to turn, or who to turn to – and too often, people don’t get the support they need until it’s too late,” he said.

“These investments will focus on early intervention, intensive care and tailored support in every corner of our State, so Victorians can get the care they need much sooner and much closer to home.”

Mr Merlino said funding had been allocated towards reducing waiting times for acute, hospital-based care.

The Minister said the allocation would open an extra 82 mental health beds at the Northern Hospital and Sunshine Hospital “so an additional 1,600 Victorians will get the inpatient care they need every year”.

“Too many people in country Victoria are still forced to travel away from their communities, families and support networks to seek care,” he said.

“We know we need more acute-level care in the regions.”

Mr Merlino said 15 additional acute beds would be delivered in Shepparton, while funding had also been allocated to acquire land and to plan for a further 49 beds in Ballarat and Wangaratta.

He said emergency department hubs for regional Victorians experiencing serious mental health and alcohol and drug issues would be delivered, with a hub at Latrobe Regional Hospital and planning for three other hubs in Ballarat, Bendigo and Shepparton.

“This Budget provides a $21 million package to support suicide prevention initiatives, including aftercare services and an 18-month pilot of a statewide peer call-back service for families, carers and supporters of people experiencing suicidal behaviour.”

Mr Merlino said Budget support for the implementation of a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act would include training for the mental health sector to deliver new models of care, help for Victorians to understand their rights, and an independent review of compulsory treatment criteria.

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