The NSW Government’s economic roadmap has mental health as a top priority with a record $130 million to provide immediate access to help for anyone whose mental health has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding boost will provide more appointments for psychology and psychiatry services, address the sharp rise in eating disorders and self-harm presentations, free up more mental health beds and launch the biggest suicide prevention training program ever undertaken.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said the lockdown combined with working from home and home schooling has seen a record number of people reach out to crisis lines.
“This funding means that parents, children and the most vulnerable in our community can get the help they need now,” Mr Perrottet said.
“As we navigate the economic recovery from this pandemic we must also support people’s mental wellbeing along the way.”
Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the new funding will provide public access to private psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health beds as well as training 275,000 people in the community to become mental health first aiders.
“We want NSW to be a whole state of mental health champions, which is why we’re launching a statewide community training blitz to make sure help is always close at hand, from the schoolyard to the sports club and beyond.” Mrs Taylor said.
“This is all about fast-tracking access to boosted services to support people doing it tough right now as well as preventing the emergence of mental health issues in the future.
“Our focus over the next two years will be on supporting our young people and families, building system capacity to meet demand and supporting our communities to lead the recovery,” Mrs Taylor said.
Treasurer Matt Kean said the funding builds on the $2.6 billion 2021-2022 NSW Mental Health Budget – the largest mental health investment in the state’s history.
“We’re leading the nation with our COVID-19 mental health support for our communities, making sure the help is there for particularly vulnerable groups, from new parents to older adults, children and young people,” Mr Kean said.
“Mental health issues often present after the crisis, so as we emerge from lockdown and life returns to normal, this funding will mean parents and children will have free access to help, where they need it and when they need it.”
Key highlights of the mental health recovery package include:
- $35 million over two years to boost the surge capacity of the mental health clinical workforce. In partnership with Primary Health Networks, NSW Health will be able to access privately practising psychologists and psychiatrists and other mental health professionals for NSW residents. It’s estimated this will create an extra 60,000 psychiatry consultations and 85,000 consults with other mental health professionals, including psychologists.
- $20 million over 18 months to provide up to 55,000 additional services to young people through their local headspace centre. This funding will boost GP and clinical psychiatrist sessions at headspace centres across NSW. It will also enable masters and doctorate psychology students (clinical and general registration) and social work and occupational therapy students (pre-registration/masters) to undertake placements at headspace centres. Overseen by clinical educators, students will conduct comprehensive mental health assessments and deliver clinical sessions for young people.
- $14 million over two years to train 275,000 people across NSW in suicide prevention training. The training will target high school teachers and support staff; parents; youth influencers (e.g. sports coaches, club managers); community groups, and peer leaders.
- $21 million over four years to employ 18 FTE Aboriginal Care Navigators and 18 FTE Aboriginal Peer Workers across NSW. These roles will link Aboriginal Australians to a range of culturally-appropriate mental health and suicide prevention services.
- $16.5 million over four years to address the increase in eating disorder presentations. This funding will increase frontline workforce capacity to recognise and respond to eating disorder presentations. It will also fund the Butterfly Foundation to admit NSW residents into its national eating disorders centre at Wandi Nerida in Queensland.
- $6 million over two years to build the capacity of caseworkers and casework managers to provide timely support to child protection practitioners at high risk of trauma.
- $5 million over two years to fund a grants program for local community wellbeing events.
- $3 million over one year to assist NSW sporting bodies to deliver mental health and wellbeing initiatives.
- $3 million over one year to provide access to private beds for 12-24-year-olds experiencing complex trauma and eating disorders. This will be trialled in South Western Sydney Local Health District.
- $2.6 million over two years to expand Gidget Foundation’s services and provide an extra 280 psychological sessions every month.
- $3.2 million over four years to establish a Multicultural Mental Health Line – a NSW first.