Collaboration • Knowledge • Leadership

Collaboration • Knowledge • Leadership

Statement on the mental health and suicide prevention bilateral agreement

Apr, 2022

Mental Health Victoria welcomes the signing of a bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and the Victorian governments.

The agreement will form part of the forthcoming National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement.

All states and territories but Tasmania and Western Australia have now signed their respective bilateral agreements. These agreements are not yet public.

The Victorian agreement will include a Commonwealth investment of $247.9 million across the next five years to help support mental health and suicide prevention services in Victoria.

It will include a purported focus on additional services for the ‘missing middle’, to ensure people across Victoria are guaranteed the essential services they need.

Mental Health Victoria’s Acting CEO Larissa Taylor said while the allocated funding is welcomed, the scale and strategy miss the mark.

The Victorian Government to date has committed $3.8 billion to implement the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

“The bilateral funding announcement represents a mismatch in scale, lacking the transformational, system-wide vision that is urgently required to meet the escalating needs of Victorians,” Taylor said.

Taylor noted that the new funding included a number of specific initiatives for Victoria that are aligned with Mental Health Victoria’s recent advocacy, including via submissions to the Federal Budget 2022-23 and the Victorian State Budget 2022-23. These include:

  • Universal aftercare services to support people following a suicide attempt or suicidal crisis
  • Improved support for perinatal mental health
  • Expansion of Head to Health centres.

“Mental Health Victoria seeks further details about the agreement, including where funding will be allocated and how the agreement plans to systematically address the current, escalating mental health workforce crisis in Victoria,” Taylor said.

“It is unclear how the announced funding supports and builds workforce capacity and capabilities.”

Overwhelming workforce shortages have been apparent across all professions in the Victorian mental health system. These shortages have been exacerbated by the ongoing mental health impacts of COVID-19 as well as the 2019-20 bushfires.

The Victorian Government recently invested $41 million into urgent initiatives from the Victoria’s mental health and wellbeing workforce strategy 2021–2024, supplementing the $228 million investment in workforce across recent State Budgets.

“We are yet to see the National Strategy for the mental health workforce and funding on a similar scale to Victoria’s own investment,” said Taylor.

Similarly, the Commonwealth’s investment of $22.3 million for three new community-based mental health and wellbeing hubs for infants, children and families is well shy of the Victorian Government’s $54 million commitment to the same end.

“While the funding for Victoria’s agreement won’t have transformational impacts, it represents a step towards focusing on some key areas including prevention and early intervention in young families as a vulnerable cohort,” Taylor said.

The bilateral agreements come at an important time, with substantial psychological distress in communities across Australia following cumulative natural crises.

Mental Health Victoria urges bilateral agreements with remaining states to be finalised and for new funding for support and initiatives to be rolled out to services and communities.

For further information or to arrange an interview with Larissa, please call Clare Callow on 0410 147 988.

The funding for Victorians includes:

$125.1 million to continue operation of the 14 existing Head to Health adult mental health clinics that were established during the COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing funding to support Victoria’s first Head to Health centre in Geelong that opened in December 2021. This funding will also support Victoria’s new community-based mental health and wellbeing services for adults and older Australians.

$45.4 million to enhance headspace services and establish two new headspace centres, to increase access to multidisciplinary youth mental health services in Victoria

$41.9 million to help establish universal aftercare services in Victoria to support people following a suicide attempt or suicidal crisis. Two expanded referral pathways trial sites will also be established to provide aftercare services for people who have experienced a suicidal crisis without being admitted to hospital

$22.3 million for three new community-based mental health and wellbeing hubs for infants, children and families to improve access to multidisciplinary team care for children

$5 million to ensure all people in Victoria who are bereaved or impacted by suicide can access postvention support services

$4 million to strengthen regional planning and commissioning of mental health and suicide prevention services

$2.4 million to implement a Distress Brief Intervention Trial Program to prevent and reduce suicidal behaviour at two trial sites

$1.8 million to improve perinatal mental health

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