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By Austra Health

Aug 18, 2020

Increased mental health funding to boost sector’s capabilities

On August 9, the Victorian Government announced $60 million in new funding to the state’s mental health system as a result of the pandemic. This builds on the almost $135 million the government has already invested in mental health during COVID-19.

Though it is too soon to see the full effects that the current health crisis will have on the population’s mental health, reports show that there has been a 19 percent increase in presentations for urgent and emergency mental health services over the past six weeks alone. This statistic is just one among many that demonstrate the growing need for mental health services across the state.

The announcement comes after the release of findings from the Royal Commission into the state’s mental health system. According to Minister for Mental Health, Martin Foley, the government was already well on its way to implementing some of the key recommendations from the Royal Commission, and “this massive funding boost will fast-track this work to ensure we have the infrastructure and support systems in place as demand on our mental health system increases.”

In order for employers within the mental health sector to extend their services, there will likely be the need to hire a range of mental health professionals to help facilitate increased support. Here are just a few areas that will experience growth from this new funding.

 

Boost to Community Care

In the face of the current crisis, opening hours in mental health community clinics will be extended, enabling face-to-face sessions and assessments to be conducted in accordance with physical distancing requirements. The intent is to take pressure off busy emergency departments, focusing on prevention and providing support to those who need it.

Furthermore, more mental health staff will be onboarded within Ambulance Victoria’s RefCom service to support paramedics and ensure the right advice and information is provided to frequent callers, including developing care plans as needed. There will also be a fast-tracking of delivering more new public acute mental health beds, and accelerating the state-wide roll out of the Hospital Outreach Post-Suicidal Engagement (HOPE) program.

 

Mental health services for healthcare and frontline workers

Studies show that front-line health care workers experience higher anxiety than the general community about contracting viruses during pandemics, which is not unfounded, given that on the day of the funding announcement, 994 of Victoria’s 7,854 active cases were healthcare workers.

For this reason, there will be significant emphasis placed on specifically offering mental health services to frontline healthcare workers. Additional mental health workers will be required at Phoenix, the Centre of Excellence in Trauma, which provides support to employment assistance programs for paramedics and police who are enforcing restrictions during lockdown.

Furthermore, counsellors and psychologists will be made available through the $250,000 channelled into the Nursing and Midwifery Health Program, so that nurses, midwives and personal care workers have access to critical mental health services.

 

Need for telehealth mental health services

Lifeline, Australia’s leading suicide prevention service, has received a 22 percent increase in calls from Victorians upon the announcement of Stage 4 restrictions, and has received almost 90,000 calls each day since March - equating to the equivalent of one call every 30 seconds. This number is predicted to increase even more as Victoria moves deeper into Stage 4 Restrictions.

The need for professional telehealth workers specialising in mental health has never been so great. Not only are hotline services receiving an influx of calls, but a larger number of people are seeking counselling and psychologist services which are, in most cases, being held remotely via video or phone conferencing.

 

If you’re looking to hire and onboard mental health professionals during this time, contact Austra Health today and speak with one of our consultants.

 

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