Local agencies hit by cruel cuts to Mental Health support

Cruel cuts to community based mental health supports by the Andrews Government exposed during the Parliamentary Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) is placing local support services under pressure.

Local mental services providers have closed due to a lack of state government funding while others are struggling to keep operating and remain viable.

It was uncovered that the Andrews Government had slashed almost $60 million from mental health programs earlier this year during PAEC hearings.

The Nationals for Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath said it defies common decency for the Andrews Government to cut mental health funding when local communities continue to experience a surge in mental health emergencies post the Covid lockdowns.

“There is a serious lack of critical mental health support available in Gippsland, our local community providers have either being denied funding or they’re being forced to operate on significantly reduced budgets.

“In the last month, two local mental health providers have closed their doors.

“Phone help services like Lifeline, Kids Help Line and Beyond Blue and community-based organisations working in intervention and support have all had their funding slashed.

“Instead of beefing up mental health support and securing grassroots funding, the Andrews Government shifted line items in the budget to create smoke and mirror headlines.

“Daniel Andrews focus is on spin rather than fixing Victoria’s mental health crisis.

“Labor’s mental health budget cuts are wrong and have placed local support organisations in a very challenging position.”

In its final report published in February 2021, The Mental Health Royal Commission stated – “Victoria’s mental health system has not kept pace. It has drifted away from its earlier aspirations of a community-based system and now relies too heavily on hospital-based services and emergency departments.”[1]

The Nationals candidate for Morwell, Martin Cameron said local families need more community based mental health support not less – we need to break the cycle of individuals presenting at our hospital emergency departments in crisis.

“Cutting the budget for community based mental health support further stretches a system that is already beyond breaking point,” said Mr Cameron.

“Speaking with CEO of Lifeline Gippsland, Michelle Possingham, it’s clear the need for mental health crisis intervention services has not disappeared, but frustratingly the state government’s funding has.

“It is unacceptable for locals to be forced to wait excruciatingly long periods to access mental health care which causes them to deteriorate further.

“Grassroots support services like Lifeline Gippsland carried our community through the trauma of lockdowns and saved lives.

“Lifeline Gippsland experienced a 45 percent increase in calls over Covid – this demand is not going down.”

Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Emma Kealy who visited the Latrobe Valley recently labelled the Andrews Government disingenuous for cutting mental health funding.

“Cutting community based mental health programs is completely contrary to the Royal Commission recommendations,” said Ms Kealy.

“The Mental Health Royal Commission made a raft of recommendations to fix Victoria’s broken mental health system labelling it “dysfunctional, overwhelmed and could not keep up with the number of people seeking treatment.”

“Labor has been in been government 20 out of the past 24 years – only a change in Government fix Victoria’s mental health crisis and build the mental health workforce.

“Cutting mental health funding and restricting access to support services just shifts the problem to hospital Emergency Departments – it’s no way to support Victorians to recover and rebuild.”

[1] https://finalreport.rcvmhs.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/RCVMHS_FinalReport_ExecSummary_Accessible.pdf p4