The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of $31.5m towards supporting mental health services but cautioned against leaving psychiatrists out of the loop.
President of the RANZCP, Associate Professor John Allan explained that with the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria, now is the time to focus on the long-term needs of the mental health system.
‘The announcement brings a much-needed focus on expanding the capacity of Victoria’s mental health services to manage the already growing demand through the creation of the 15 dedicated mental health clinics’, said Associate Professor Allan.
‘However, the long-term sustainability of Victoria’s mental health system should not be neglected in the rush to provide immediate support.
‘We are already seeing the impact COVID-19 pandemic and its associated lockdown are having on people’s mental health and wellbeing and we can only expect it to get worse as the situation continues in Victoria.
‘Now is the time to look towards implementing wide-reaching system reform, including the earlier involvement of psychiatrists in the mental health journey.
Chair of the RANZCP Victorian Branch, Dr Kerryn Rubin, further welcomed the government’s intention to address the need for expanded capacity and greater accessibility to Victoria’s mental health services but expressed concern for the increased strain it will put on the already stretched mental health workforce.
‘Our health system is being tested like it never has before and our mental health system will be tested even more in the months to come as we begin to see the aftereffects of lockdown emerge.
‘Providing better access for people, regardless of whether this is their first time accessing mental health care or not, is vital to ensuring that we come out the other side of this. However we need to acknowledge that an expansion of this measure will need to take into account the need for an increased workforce in order to be able to handle the higher level of service demand.
‘The social, economic and mental health impacts of this pandemic are going to be extensive and it’s important that we do what we can now in order to prepare ourselves and our mental health system to be able to cope with the influx that we are already beginning to see.
‘This funding will help toward providing integrated mental health support for our communities and those experiencing mental distress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and extended periods of isolation.
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