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Monitoring mental health and suicide prevention reform: National Report 2020

Appendix B: Government announcements relating to COVID-19, bushfires and mental health

Australian Government

 

Announcement Extract Date Website
The Australian Government will establish a new agency with an initial $2 billion for a National Bushfire Recovery Fund to coordinate a national response to rebuild communities and livelihoods after the devastating fire-front has passed. 6 January 2020 View Here
Immediate mental health services deployed into fire-affected communities.

$76 million will fund free counselling sessions, extra Medicare and telehealth consultations, an expansion of headspace services for young Australians, and community recovery initiatives.
12 January 2020 View Here
$64 million for suicide prevention and mental health initiatives. Initiatives will focus on:
  • • Australians who have been discharged from hospital after a suicide attempt
  • • families and carers who have lost a loved one to suicide
  • • young Australians, particularly in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and in regional and rural areas
  • • Australians in crisis, and in need of immediate assistance.
  •  
30 January 2020 View Here
Announcement of National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention. 5 February 2020 View Here
$74 million will be provided to support the mental health and wellbeing of Australians, including:
  • • awareness and prevention measures, including a communications strategy on maintaining mental health during the pandemic
  • • early intervention measures, including $10 million to establish a COVID-19 support line and additional funding to expand existing support services
  • • expansion of the Community Visitors Scheme for our older Australians
  • • expansion of headspace Digital Work and Study Service for our young Australians
  • • development of mental health and wellbeing resources for Indigenous Australians through Gayaa Dhuwi
  • • continued support for a further 12 months for people with severe mental illness seeking to transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
  •  
29 March 2020 View Here
COVID-19: Whole-of-population telehealth for patients, general practice, primary care and other medical services—expansion of telehealth Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items. 29 March 2020 View Here
Immediate response plan to focus on people with disability during coronavirus. 4 April 2020 View Here
Boost for bushfire recovery—as part of the Regional Bushfire Recovery and Development Program, bushfire-affected communities will share in $448.5 million from the Australian Government to support the delivery of local recovery plans, with priority given to the most severely impacted regions, drawing on local voices and local governments in close partnership and as part of cost-sharing arrangements with states. This includes Community Wellbeing and Participation ($13.5 million)—backing Primary Health Networks with additional funding to provide critical, localised emotional and mental health support for bushfire-affected individuals. 11 May 2020 View Here
Appointment of Deputy Chief Medical Officer for mental health. 13 May 2020 View Here
$48.1 million announced to support the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan. 15 May 2020 View Here
$54 million in grants for mental health research. 20 May 2020 View Here
$20 million additional funding for research to improve mental health care and reduce suicide rates in Australia. 25 May 2020 View Here
$690,000 to Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand to support mental health first aid training for all medical students. 27 May 2020 View Here
Supporting isolated senior Australians to stay connected:
  • • $6 million communications package supporting senior Australians through two new initiatives to prevent loneliness and social isolation
  • • almost $5 million to significantly expand Friend Line, a national telephone support service for older Australians, to answer 60,000 calls a year
  • • $1 million in grants to 215 local community organisations to provide at-risk seniors with digital devices such as mobile phones and laptops.
  •  
28 May 2020 View Here
$24.2 million to reduce wait times—fast-tracking access to mental health services for young people aged 12–25 seeking headspace appointments. 9 June 2020 View Here
Investment of almost $35 million in 42 key research projects in areas such as ending avoidable Indigenous deafness, ending avoidable Indigenous blindness, and helping to eradicate chronic kidney disease.

Three of these projects are in Indigenous mental health (approximately $4.3 million worth of the total investment amount).
14 June 2020 View Here
COVID-19 support for children and young people—$550,000 over two years to support children and young people who have a parent or guardian with a mental illness. 17 June 2020 View Here
$8 million for two projects that will use artificial intelligence to improve mental health treatments for Australians. 29 June 2020 View Here
$27 million to boost research in preventive and public health projects through the landmark $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund.
This funding will enable research teams across Australia to look at new ways to prevent people from getting ill. Telehealth will have a key role in a number of these projects.
27 July 2020 View Here
121 Men's Sheds across Australia will share in $500,000 in the latest funding round of the National Shed Development Programme. 27 July 2020 View Here
The Australian Government will provide 10 additional Medicare-subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people subjected to further restrictions in areas impacted by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $7.3 million in additional support recognises that many people in areas impacted by the second wave of the pandemic will be facing increased emotional and mental stress.
2 August 2020 View Here
An additional $12 million to ensure that people in Victoria can access 24/7 mental health support through digital and telephone counselling services. This package includes:
  • • $5 million for headspace to increase outreach services to young people in the community who are in severe distress
  • • $2.5 million for Beyond Blue to expand capacity, extend counsellor webchat hours to operate 24/7, and boost the ability to refer people with severe and complex needs for five additional sessions
  • • $2.5 million for Lifeline to deal with increased call volumes from Victoria
  • • $2 million for Kids Helpline to increase its call answer rate and service responsiveness, deal with additional demand for services, and link to further support.
  •  
6 August 2020 View Here
An additional $31.9 million to create 15 mental health clinics across Victoria and further enhance essential support during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was in recognition of the ongoing impact of Victorian restrictions on the mental health of individuals and communities. The clinics are now located at various general practice clinics, headspace and community centres, where health care is generally accessed. Nine are established in Greater Melbourne and six in regional Victoria. The clinics provide multidisciplinary mental health treatment and care in communities to anyone struggling with their mental health. 17 August 2020 View Here
$2 billion to extend critical health services across Australia.

Millions of Australians will continue to receive medical care and support in their own homes, with the Australian Government investing more than $2 billion to extend a range of COVID-19 health measures for a further six months, to 31 March 2021. Patients will continue to have access to Medicare-subsidised telehealth for general practitioner, nursing, midwifery, allied health and allied mental health services, where and when they need them.
18 September 2020 View Here
Additional changes made by the National Disability Insurance Agency to support participants and providers during COVID-19 restrictions, including:
  • • temporarily broadened what assistive technology (AT) items can be purchased so all participants are able to spend up to $1,500 on AT items, such as smart phones and laptops, from their existing budgets
  • • information packs tailored to COVID-19, including
    • ‒ psychosocial disability—this pack is designed to help people with psychosocial disability and their carers get the most out of their NDIS plan during the COVID-19 pandemic
    • ‒ mental health and wellbeing—this pack is designed to help participants, and their families and carers to look after their mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    •  
  View Here

Australian Capital Territory

Announcement Extract Date Website
$4.5 million COVID-19 mental health support package to help Canberrans.

An additional $200,000 for the Way Back Support Service to support people who have attempted suicide or are experiencing suicidal crisis, and $341,843 to establish two Safe Haven cafes.
6 May 2020 View Here

New South Wales

 

Announcement Extract Date Website
$73 million to support mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes more than 180 additional mental health workers, expanded virtual mental health programs and increased capacity of the 1800 NSW mental health line. 24 April 2020 View Here
The NSW Government will invest a further $310 million in emergency drought relief in recognition of the ongoing drought conditions in regional New South Wales, extending emergency drought measures to help farmers and communities make it out of the worst drought in living memory.

This investment includes the continuation of health and wellbeing programs, including the Farmgate Counsellors Program, Aboriginal wellbeing services and the Royal Flying Doctors Far West Drought Support program.
May 2020 View Here
$800,000 to set up a 'warm line' that will enable people who may be experiencing distress to connect quickly with peer workers. 20 May 2020 View Here

Northern Territory

 

Announcement Extract Date Website
The Worker and Wellbeing Fund will:
  • • help people access wellbeing and other counselling or support services
  • • help people navigate the welfare system, and access income and other financial support
  • • help workers who have lost their job find new employment opportunities fast—for example, guiding people to job-matching services such as the Territory Jobs Hub
  • • assist Territorians who require access to accommodation and other essentials.
  •  
3 April 2020 View Here
TeamHEALTH launched TeamTALK—a phone-based support service, where any Northern Territorian can quickly access an experienced, locally based mental health recovery professional for a judgement-free, confidential chat. 9 April 2020 View Here

Queensland

 

Announcement Extract Date Website
The Queensland Government is delivering a $14 million recovery package to support the mental health and resilience of communities impacted by the bushfires. 24 January 2020 View Here
$28 million fund to support community-based health services groups as part of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. 14 April 2020 View Here
Queensland's economic recovery plan. 27 May 2020 View Here

South Australia

 

Announcement Extract Date Website
The South Australia Health website includes a number of resources on mental health during COVID-19, including:
  • • a mental health support line for South Australians concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic, with Lifeline counsellors to provide a call-back support service for people in distress or in need of additional support
  • • a mental health fact sheet
  • • a mental health triage service.
  •  
2020 View Here

Tasmania

 

Announcement Extract Date Website
The Social and Economic support package includes $4 million to support those experiencing mental health difficulties as a result of the challenges associated with coronavirus, including:
  • • $875,000 to establish a dedicated 1800 phone number to allow the Tasmanian community to call in and receive psychosocial support, and provide a reach-out service for older Tasmanians and industries that are significantly impacted
  • • $360,000 for increased capacity to provide mental health advice, support and referral for vulnerable Tasmanians living in rural areas
  • • $450,000 supporting providers to use technology to keep vulnerable Tasmanians
  • connected
  • • $120,000 for targeted support for Tasmania's migrant community regarding the COVID-19 pandemic
  • • $600,000 for increased capacity to provide mental health support for Tasmanians living in supported accommodation
  • • $250,000 to adapt Tasmania's pharmacotherapy program to the challenges of COVID-19.
  •  
26 March 2020 View Here
A new campaign has been launched to encourage Tasmanians to 'check in' with themselves and those around them following the impacts of COVID-19. 22 July 2020 View Here

Victoria

 

Announcement Extract Date Website
The Victorian Government has announced a $59.4 million funding boost to support Victoria's mental health system and ensure that Victorians get the care they need, as demand for services spikes during the coronavirus crisis. 12 April 2020 View Here
$19.5 million in funding to deliver essential reform recommendations from the interim report of the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System and to help flatten a potential second curve of mental ill-health. 15 May 2020 View Here
Bushfire mental health assistance
$8.75 million to bolster mental health services provided by Albury Wodonga Health and Latrobe Regional Health, which offer specialist early intervention advice to general practitioners and community clinicians. The investment includes $6.6 million for practical mental health support programs delivered by organisations such as Gippsland Lakes Community Health Consortium, Alpine Health in partnership with NESAY, Corryong Health Service, Tallangatta Health Service and Beyond Blue.

Another $3 million is dedicated to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to establish social and emotional wellbeing programs, in line with the recommendation from the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System.
8 July 2020 View Here
$59.7 million in new funding will strengthen the surge capacity of clinical and community mental health services across Victoria to cope with additional presentations and reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments—ensuring that Victorians can get the care they need, even as demand for services spikes.

This funding will also fast-track delivery of more new public acute mental health beds, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System, boost community mental health services and accelerate the statewide roll out of the Hospital Outreach Post-Suicidal Engagement (HOPE) program.
9 August 2020 View Here

Western Australia

 

Announcement Extract Date Website
$1 billion support package for households, small businesses and frontline health staff. 31 March 2020 View Here
$56 million investment to provide mental health, and alcohol and other drug support to at-risk and vulnerable groups. Funds go to:
  • • $25 million for a new 20-bed adult community care unit
  • • $25 million development of a new 16-bed youth mental health, and alcohol and other drug homelessness service
  • • $6 million to support vulnerable cohorts and community wellbeing, and support an increase in demand for community mental health services.
9 June 2020 View Here
Appointment of a Chief Medical Officer, Mental Health, within the Mental Health Commission to help strengthen its leadership role in the sector. 7 July 2020 View Here
$20 million funding to create specialist mental health hub as part of WA Recovery Plan:
  • • $20 million for 20 more mental health beds at Fremantle Hospital
  • • adds to the commitment for a new 20-bed secure mental health unit at the hospital, which has also received additional funds of $4.4 million
  • • creates the South Metropolitan specialist mental health hub.
  •  
7 July 2020 View Here
New Emergency Telehealth Service launched to support children and young people experiencing a mental health crisis. Provides an alternative to attending a metropolitan hospital emergency department for mental health assessment, thereby limiting time spent in hospital. Supports other health professionals and community-based staff to provide children and young people with mental health support. 13 July 2020 View Here
The Western Australian Government announced nearly $15 million for:
  • o developing and implementing a region-by-region approach to Aboriginal suicide prevention
  • o providing aftercare support following a suicide attempt through a peer-based approach
  • o providing support and meeting the needs of those affected by a suicide death
  • o increasing capacity of services that provide long-term support to children who have been bereaved by a suicide death
  • o improving community-level data collection for suicide prevention.
  •  
23 July 2020 View Here

Mental health measures in the 2020–21 Federal Budget

 

Australian Government

 

Announcement Extract Date Website
Extracts relating to mental health measures outlined in the 2020–21 Federal Budget are listed below (noting that some items were announced before release of the Budget).

COVID-19 Response Package—additional mental health and crisis support for Victoria

The government will provide $47.3 million over two years from 2020–21 in additional mental health and crisis support services for people experiencing mental illness and distress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in Victoria, including:
  • • $26.9 million in 2020–21 to establish 15 enhanced mental health clinics within six Primary Health Networks, to provide immediate coordinated mental health care
  • • $7.0 million for Beyond Blue, Lifeline and Kids Helpline to expand capacity to manage increased demand for crisis support services in Victoria
  • • $5.0 million in 2020–21 to support digital and telephone services for vulnerable populations, including new and expecting parents, people with eating disorders, and culturally and linguistically diverse communities
  • • $5.0 million in 2020–21 for headspace to increase outreach services to young people in the community who are in severe distress
  • • $3.4 million over two years from 2020–21 to undertake an evaluation of these initiatives, and to provide additional support to the Victorian Mental Health Taskforce.

COVID-19 Response Package—supporting mental health

The government will provide $100.8 million over two years from 2020–21 to provide up to 10 additional individual psychological therapy sessions each calendar year nationally under the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (Better Access) initiative.

Prioritising mental health—continued support

The government will provide an additional $62.1 million over four years from 2020–21 (including $0.6 million per year ongoing) to improve access to mental health services, including:
  • • $45.7 million over four years from 2020–21 to expand the Individual Placement and Support program under the Youth Employment Strategy to assist vulnerable young people with mental illness to participate in the workforce
  • • $6.9 million over two years from 2020–21 to support digital mental health services, including the Australian Government's mental health gateway Head to Health
  • • $5.0 million in 2020–21 to provide parents, guardians and carers with mental health and career information for students in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • • $2.3 million over four years from 2020–21 to enhance the national headspace network by upgrading the Mount Barker service in South Australia to a full centre
  • • $2.1 million in 2020–21 for the Prevention Hub led by the Black Dog Institute and Everymind to continue to advance research that targets people at heightened risk of mental ill-health and suicide.

Supporting Our Hospitals—simpler and more affordable private health cover for all Australians

The government will also make home and community-based care more accessible through private health insurance, commencing with mental health and general rehabilitation services. Formal consultation on the implementation will commence with the sector in October 2020.

COVID-19 Response Package—BusinessBalance—supporting the mental health of Australians in small businesses

The government will provide $7.0 million in 2020–21 to support the mental health and financial wellbeing of small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including:
  • • $4.3 million to provide free, accessible and tailored support for small business owners by expanding Beyond Blue's NewAccess program in partnership with the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman
  • • $2.2 million to expand a free, accredited professional development program that builds the mental health literacy of trusted business advisers so that they can better support small business owners in times of distress, delivered through Deakin University.

Implementation of the 2019 Monsoon Trough: a Strategy for Long-Term Recovery
  • • $2.0 million over four years from 2020–21 for preventive mental health measures for children in flood-affected areas.

Supporting families impacted by stillbirth

The government will provide $7.6 million over four years from 2020-21 (and $1.2 million per year ongoing) to address inconsistencies in the support provided for families affected by stillbirth or by the loss of a child before their first birthday, irrespective of whether it is their first or subsequent claim.

Mental health support for veterans and their families

The government will provide $101.7 million over four years from 2020-21 for veterans' mental health support and services. Funding includes:
  • • a one-off increase to the fees paid to the Department of Veterans' Affairs mental health, social work and community nursing providers, and a simplified fee structure for these services
  • • an additional 10 specialist psychiatry training places each year for psychiatrists to specialise in veterans' mental health care
  • • expanding the Open Arms Veterans and Families Counselling Community and Peer program, in addition to developing and implementing an outcomes monitoring framework to monitor and assess Open Arms services
  • • expanding digital mental health capabilities through a pilot of web-based forums for veterans and their families, improving access to support for those in regional and remote locations
  • • extending the Coordinated Veterans' Care Program to eligible White Card holders with an accepted mental health condition.
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6 October 2020 View Here