We need certainty in mental health investment

04 August 2020
With a State of Disaster declared in Victoria and a small – yet persistent – number of new cases still emerging daily in NSW, it is imperative governments continue to provide sustained new investment in mental health to meet variable and changing circumstances.

‘Our governments have by and large responded early and rapidly to address the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now is not the time to get complacent,’ said President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), Associate Professor John Allan.  

‘It is more important than ever that governments start to think long term about these strategies and provide some certainty for patients who are already struggling and on top of that trying to deal with so much unpredictability. 

‘We need to ensure that all Australians, no matter where they live, can continue to access the essential mental health treatments and safety nets they need to see them through these difficult times – and they have the confidence that they can.

‘This means targeted long-term commitments to continue the delivery of those mental health services such as telehealth which have proven so effective and well received by patients.

‘There is also a solid case for urgently implementing telehealth item numbers for psychiatry inpatient services as a complement to face-to-face consultations to add value to the hospital experience.

‘This would allow clinicians, with the benefit of a comprehensive patient assessment, the choice of providing both face-to-face and telehealth consultations as appropriate to a patient’s clinical needs.

‘This type of targeted investment would improve access to services for patients, particularly where inpatient care is impacted due to the risks of contracting and spreading the virus within healthcare settings.’

‘It‘s also become increasingly clear that our COVID-19 recovery is going be a staggered affair across different parts of the country.

‘This will require a more dynamic and focused approach to funding mental health programs and social supports in specific jurisdictions, for particular groups of affected people – because one size will not fit all.’

‘Given the significant rise in the incidence of COVID-19 infections in Victoria, the protection and safety of our frontline healthcare workers must also be paramount and this cannot be done without a sufficient, appropriate and sustained supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) where it is needed.’

RANZCP Victorian Branch Chair, Dr Kerryn Rubin, commended the 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions, announced on Sunday by Minister Hunt, for people subjected to further restrictions in areas impacted by this next wave of the pandemic.

‘This is good news for people in Victoria living in lock-down areas who need to use and will benefit from these mental health services.

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

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