Mental health and care boost welcomed

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today welcomed substantial funding for Canberrans needing mental health, alcohol and other drug services and primary health care.

The ACT packages announced by ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, Minister for Health, Rachel Stephen-Smith and Minister for Mental Health, Emma Davidson includes $14 million from the ACT Government, delivered now and in the coming ACT Budget.

$2.5 million from the Australian Government was also announced this morning by The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care.

ACTCOSS a/g CEO Craig Wallace said these were a ‘vital and very timely response to the unprecedented pressures now facing vulnerable Canberrans and organisations right now.

‘While we know lockdowns are a painful but necessary public health measure, especially for vulnerable people, the reality is that people’s incomes, relationships and physical situations are all under duress as the ACT enters its sixth week of an expected nine-week lockdown.

‘Community organisations are the canaries in the coalmine when people are in difficult circumstances due to loss of income, relationship breakdowns and mental health problems.

‘Only this morning ACTCOSS heard loud and clear from frontline organisations that they are experiencing levels and types of demand they have never seen before. People tell us the phones are ringing off the hook, almost every call is a crisis call and every worker is flat out.

“At the sharp end, the demand for mental health services has increased significantly during the lockdown with Lifeline Canberra reporting a 40 per cent increase in demand for its services”.

“COVID has exposed fractures and gaps already evident in supports for vulnerable people. ACTCOSS will also be looking for the coming budget to address a range of priorities and pressures facing those doing it tough through poverty and economic disadvantage in a city with runaway costs of living including housing.

“The details of the whole package are still coming available, and we look forward to getting into those in the coming days, but we warmly welcome what we’ve seen so far’, Mr Wallace concluded.

Speaking to the investments in the alcohol and other drug sector Dr Devin Bowles, Chief Executive Officer of the Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT (ATODA) said “It is wonderful that the government is recognising the extra strain placed on the ACT community, and responding with increased resources for alcohol and other drug services. These are especially important now to help some of the most vulnerable people in Canberra achieve greater stability in a time of uncertainty.”

A summary of the funding can be seen below this release.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.

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