The Victorian government has announced $9.57 million in additional funding for mental health services to meet the rise in demand during the state’s extended lockdown.
Melbourne emerged from its lockdown on Friday morning, with some restrictions remaining in place, and the state recording zero new local cases.
Acting premier and mental health minister James Merlino said that while restrictions such as mandatory masks outdoors and capacity limits for venues were necessary, they could have a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of Victorians.
“The current restrictions are in place to protect every Victorian – but we know this is a tough time and many are struggling with their mental health,” he said in a statement.
“This is about delivering the mental health support Victorians need right now, as well as into the future as we recover from the pandemic.”
To increase support for children and young people, the government will invest $2.24 million to urgently deliver surge teams of clinicians to the 13 specialist Child and Youth Mental Health Services in the state. Each one will work with their local headspace centres to address significant waiting lists.
Multicultural affairs and youth minister Ros Spence said the funding would ‘go a long way towards ensuring young people get the support they need, when they need it.’.
Noting that headspace centres are run by the federal government, the acting premier said Victoria would ask the commonwealth to immediately match this funding until the end of 2021.
Last year Eating Disorders Victoria and the Centre for Excellence in Eating Disorders reported that 30% more people accessed their clinical services. Speaking to ABC News, Dr Laura Hart, from the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Mental Health, linked the figures to lockdowns.
In response to the rise in eating disorder presentations during the pandemic — and building on funding announced in January — the state government has allocated $1.5 million to assist six metropolitan health services with continuing and expanding integrated care to persons with eating disorders.
The government will provide additional money to mental health organisations, including Beyond Blue ($1 million), Lifeline ($1.2 million), and the Eating Disorders Victoria ($500,000) to support their helplines.
Organisations including Anxiety Recovery Centre Victoria, Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia, Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, YMCA and Kids Helpline will also receive $3.1 million to maintain current services and develop new initiatives that support the mental health of diverse communities.
The new funding is in addition to the $3.8 billion committed through the recent Victorian budget — delivered last month — to overhaul the state’s mental health system.
Victoria entered a seven-day lockdown in late May, but it was extended to two weeks over concerns that a new outbreak was highly infectious.
The state currently has 75 active COVID-19 cases.