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The Government’s mental health centerpiece- the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System – is expected to address serious flaws in the way that Victoria has been responding to people experiencing mental illness.
While the Government is serious about addressing crisis issues in the mental health system, most of the funding in the 2019/20 budget is still targeted to the tertiary end of the service system, such as more hospital bed. Funding for community based mental health services is desperately needed ahead of the Royal Commission, to ensure people get the support they need.
VCOSS welcomes the increased emphasis on initiatives that will assist in achieving equality in health outcomes, such school dental vans, gambling harm prevention, mental health promotion, and support for asylum seekers. The lion’s share of funding for health in the budget was for hospitals and crisis services. Whilst these investments are important, VCOSS looks forward to working with the Government on more prevention and promotion initiatives, where money is invested into stopping people from going to hospital and crisis services.
School dental vans
VCOSS applauds the Government’s $321.9 million investment in child oral health. The scheme will be available for about 650,000 students each year. The Victorian Government will commence the roll out of free dental care to Victorian Government schools. Otherwise known as ‘Smile Squads’, they will start visiting schools in term 3 of 2019, and will be rolled out to all Victorian public school by 2022. The Smile Squads will provide free check-ups and treatment, as well as free dental packs.
Cost: $25.2m in 2019/20 ($321.9m/4 years)
Royal Commission into Mental Health System
The Victorian Government has established a Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.
The Commission is conducting community consultation sessions across Victoria. VCOSS looks forward to a focus on mental wellbeing, including prevention, promotion and the contributing factors to mental health. An interim report will be delivered in November 2019, with the final report delivered in October 2020.
Cost: $6.8m in 2019/20 ($13.6m/3 years)
Mental health promotion
VCOSS warmly welcomes the commitment to fund a campaign around mental health stigma. Stigma is one of the greatest challenges for people experiencing mental illness. Money spent on the prevention of mental illness is money saved.
The Government will fund the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist to undertake this campaign while the Royal Commission is underway.
Cost: $1.8m in 2019/20 ($3.6m/2 years)
Mental health service demand
The Victorian Government will invest in clinical supports, including inpatient beds, PARCs, and clinical community hours.
Cost: $26.1m in 2019/20 ($67.6m/2 years)
Support for asylum seekers
The Government is funding services to support asylum seekers living in the community, following cuts to eligibility for Commonwealth services. This includes mental health and trauma counselling, material aid, health assistance and medications, housing assistance and case coordination.
Cost: $3m in 2019/20
Gambling harm prevention
The Budget is funding the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation to continue to support gambling harm prevention by providing treatment for people affected by problem gambling, including the Gamblers Help Program.
Cost: $37.5m in 2019/20 ($153m/4 four years)
Hospital infrastructure funding
This Budget include more than $1.5 billion in infrastructure funding over the forward estimates for new and upgraded hospitals in Footscray, Frankston, Geelong and the Latrobe region.
Cost: Over $1.5b/4 years
The Government is providing more funding to hospitals to respond to growing patient demand, including in emergency departments, elective surgery, maternity admissions, outpatient services, chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.
Cost: $780m in 2019/20 ($2.29b/4 years)
End of life care
The Victorian Government will invest in continued support for Victorians requiring end-of-life care, including home based palliative care in regional and rural Victoria.
Cost: 17.3m in 2019/20 ($72m/4 years)
Regional Health Infrastructure Fund
The Government will boost the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund to improve the quality and amenity of infrastructure across a range of rural and regional health services.
Cost: $50m in 2019/20 ($100m/2 years)
Medical specialist care for regional Victoria
The Government will provide an additional 500,000 specialist appointments to regional and rural Victorians, alongside the establishment of an easy to access registry for GPs with up to date information about waiting lists.
Cost: $32.8m in 2019/20 ($136.2m/4 years)
Gippsland residential rehabilitation facility*
Funding is provided to operationalise the Hope Restart facility in Gippsland, providing 30 additional residential rehabilitation beds.
Cost: $1.4m in 2019/20 ($10.2m/4 years)
Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme
Travel and accommodation subsidies continue for rural and regional Victorians who are required to travel long distances to receive specialist medical care.
Cost: $2.6m in 2019/20
VCOSS advocates for more strategies to improve health outcomes for Victorians, particularly those who are disadvantaged. VCOSS will continue to advocate for the following.
Implement recommendations of Victorian Community Health Taskforce
Community health services are the quiet achievers of Victoria’s health system, continuing to give healthcare to those who need it most. Yet there were no significant increases in community health funding in the 2019/20 Budget. The Victorian Community Health Taskforce is due to provide advice to the Government by June 2019. VCOSS will continue to advocate for investment to be guided by these recommendations.
Expand alcohol and other drug treatment services
The Victorian Government can help people overcome addiction and problem drug and alcohol use by boosting the number of residential rehabilitation beds available. These state-funded programs have long waiting lists that impede timely treatment. The Government has invested in residential rehabilitation programs, and addressing drug harms, but there is still more to do.
Invest in assertive outreach suicide prevention programs
The Victorian Government can continue investing in and expanding assertive suicide prevention responses. VCOSS would like to see more funding for outreach suicide prevention.
While we welcome the School Dental Vans, we note that funding to the Smile Squad has been reduced from the pre-election announcement of $395.8 million, by $73.9 million. In its pre-election announcements, the Government promised to expand the scheme to low-fee Catholic and independent schools by the end of 2021. The Government can further invest in the oral health of children attending low-fee Catholic and independent schools to ensure all children can be healthy.