Psychiatrists welcome extra mental health support

14 May 2020

With Covid-19 public health measures beginning to ease across the country, the announcement of the Mental Health Support Package is welcome relief for mental health services in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).

The ACT Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is encouraged by the Government’s commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of Canberrans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘We are very pleased to see the government eager to support the mental health services in the ACT through this package’, said RANZCP ACT Branch Chair, Associate Professor Jeffrey Looi.

‘There are a number of elements to this package that we have been working with the government on and are glad for the opportunity to work with them to achieve their implementation.

Associate Professor Looi also commended the government for other areas of the package that will improve provision of mental health care of Canberrans.

‘The Police, Ambulance, Clinician Emergency Response (PACER) program expansion is also a welcome addition.

‘This cross-agency response to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis provide alternate pathways to mental health care, providing relief to our emergency departments and linking people to our community services.

Together with PACER, the expansion of Access Mental Health and Home Assessment Acute Response Team (HAART) will also increase capacity to provide frontline care for people with mental illness.

‘The Safe Haven Café is a replication of Victorian St Vincent’s Hospital model which provides an after-hours, non- clinical therapeutic service for people with a mental health condition, staffed by a mixture of clinicians and peer support workers.

‘The Safe Haven Cafés are a fantastic initiative that we look forward to working with the government to implement here in the ACT.

‘Around 3% of emergency department presentations are for mental health reasons and the Cafés provide an alternate mental health specific environment for these presentations to be addressed.

The PACER and Safe Haven programs have been supported mutually with the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, and hopefully represent the beginning of further joint initiatives.

‘We know that there is a strong relationship between mental health and secure housing. The additional accommodation for people exiting acute inpatient units will help provide safe housing allowing continuation of care.

The RANZCP ACT Branch welcome the announcement and look forward to working alongside the Minister in rolling out these initiatives. 

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 437 315 911, or email

For all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.