A healthy and resilient community

2020 Victorian Budget Analysis

The ongoing health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are already becoming apparent. Demand for mental health services is increasing. Patterns of drug and alcohol use are changing, and waiting lists for treatment are growing.

But the mental health system was broken well before the pandemic. The Mental Health Royal Commission is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a new system, that meets the needs of all Victorians. The funding announced in the 2020-21 budget is a considerable down-payment on the package that will be needed in response to the Royal Commission’s final recommendations.

It includes funding for innovative, community-led solutions, like Victoria’s first residential mental health service designed and delivered by people with lived experience of mental illness. It provides opportunities to intervene early for young people at risk of severe mental illness, and continues or expands vital supports for asylum seekers and pregnant women.

Additional funding for alcohol and drug treatment services and workers will make a dent in the number of people waiting for assistance, and new roles to support people waiting for residential treatment will help keep people engaged in the meantime.

Victoria’s multicultural communities have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding in this budget will help make sure emergency support and communications are appropriate, timely and tailored to community need. We know that having a job – a job that is secure, pays fair wages and provides a safe workplace – is key to health and wellbeing. The budget includes measures that unlock opportunities for jobseekers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and build social capital and economic recovery within multicultural communities.

 

Positive initiatives

Hospital care in the home

$43.5m in 2020-21 (116.5m/3yrs) to meet growing demand for hospital services in the home, including dialysis, chemo and palliative treatment.

 

Drug and alcohol care recovery coordination

$8.4m in 2020-21 ($25.6m/2yrs) for new care and recovery specialist positions to support people facing extended time on wait lists for residential alcohol and drug treatment services, and provide targeted services for cohorts who have disengaged from treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Medically supervised injecting rooms

$3.3m in 2020-21 ($5.3m/2yrs) including funding for a second supervised injecting room in the City of Melbourne.

 

Acute mental health expansion

$18.9m in service delivery funding in 2020-21 and $492.2 in infrastructure funding to deliver additional clinical mental health beds, contributing to the Government’s response to the Mental Health Royal Commission’s Interim Report.

 

Hospital and health system infrastructure building

More than $2b to build, expand and upgrade hospitals and health facilities, including the redevelopment of Warrnambool Hospital, expansion of Frankston Hospital, planning for a new Royal Melbourne Hospital site and a new Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Geelong. The Regional and Metropolitan Health Infrastructure Funds will also receive additional funds.

 

Maintaining hospital capacity

$862.8m in 2020-21 ($2.8b/4yrs) to manage service delivery as Victoria transitions to COVID normal. Includes funding for elective surgery that was deferred during the pandemic, new high-cost therapies, and funding to continue the operation of new services opened during the pandemic.

 

A Residential Mental Health Service designed by people with lived experience

$1.7m in service delivery funding in 2020-21 and $7m in infrastructure funding to establish Victoria’s first residential mental health service designed by people with lived experience of mental illness. The service will be predominately run by people with lived experience, with the aim of providing short-term treatment, care and support in a residential community setting.

 

Expanding suicide prevention and follow-up care

$21.4m in 2020-21 to expand suicide prevention and follow-up care for adults and to support a new child and youth program. This includes funding to continue the Hospital Outreach Post-suicidal Engagement program at locations where funding is lapsing.

 

 

Increasing alcohol and other drug capacity 

$4.4m in 2020-21 to operationalise new AOD residential rehabilitation beds in Corio, Wangaratta and Traralgon.

 

Mental health lived experience workforce

$10.3m in 2020-21 (16m/3yrs) to promote, define and support the lived experience workforce in Victoria’s mental health system, along with establishing pathways for growth.

 

Decriminalising public drunkenness

$16m in 2020-21 to commence implementation of a health-based approach to public drunkenness.

 

Supporting medical research

$21.2m in 2020-21 ($210.3m/4yrs) includes funding for an Australian Institute for Infectious Disease and the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance.

 

Very Special Kids

$7.5m in 2020-21 to build a new eight-bed paediatric respite facility, for Victorian children with life-limiting illnesses.

 

Voluntary Assisted Dying

$5.5m in 2020-21 ($23m/4yrs) to continue the implementation of Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying laws, including an expansion of the state-wide pharmacy services, and funding for the Voluntary Assisted Dying care navigator system.

 

LGBTIQ+ support

$2m in 2020-21 to deliver financial support grants to LGBTIQ+ organisations and businesses impacted during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

$1m in 2020-21 to support the capacity of community groups to assist LGBTIQ+ Victorians.

 

Supporting asylum seekers’ mental health

$3.9m in 2020-21 to continue to support the mental health needs of people seeking asylum.

 

Supporting new parents

$2.7m in 2020-21 ($20.6m/4yrs) to continue the expansion of the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies program to rural and regional areas, to support vulnerable pregnant women accessing maternity, specialist and counselling services to improve perinatal outcomes.

 

Growing Suburbs

$75.2m in 2020-21 to extend the Growing Suburbs Fund to boost the number of community facility projects delivered in Melbourne’s growing interface and peri-urban councils. Funding includes grants for building or upgrading projects like parks, community centres, playgrounds, pools and cultural facilities.

 

Public library program

$7.7m in 2020-21 (13.3m/2yrs) to expand the services and infrastructure of Victoria’s public libraries and improve accessibility of library resources. Also includes funding to expand the Living Libraries Infrastructure program to support the role of libraries in strengthening communities and encouraging opportunities for community participation.

 

Economic recovery for Victoria’s multicultural communities

$30.1m in 2020-21 ($34.3m/2yrs) to provide economic recovery support for Victoria’s multicultural communities and young people, including 50 Community Employment Connectors, playgroups for parents from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds, grants for more than 60 multicultural infrastructure projects as well as social cohesion grants and place-based initiatives to maintain youth engagement.

 

COVID-19 support for multicultural communities 

$20.4m in 2020-21 to support multicultural and multi-faith communities during the coronavirus including food relief, remote welfare checks and additional basic needs assistance packages for asylum seekers.

 

Further policy directions

The mental health funding in this budget focused on the desperate need for more beds and expansion of acute care, to address the interim recommendations of the Mental Health Royal Commission. But community mental health services are just as vital a pillar of the mental health system, and were largely overlooked in this package. Community mental health services keep people well and supported in their homes and communities, reducing the demand on acute care services. We look forward to the 2021-22 Budget recognising and funding a sustainable future model for community mental health services.

During the pandemic, community health services have played a critical role, engaging communities and providing a link between acute health services and community-based care. In future budgets, the capacity of community health services to provide these vital services should be increased.

The health impacts of COVID-19, like any disaster, are felt differently and more profoundly by people living on low incomes or in marginalised communities. Preventive health programs address the inequities that lead to poor health outcomes, help keep people well and reduce chronic illness and burden on the hospital system. Victoria should continue to increase its investment in preventive health programs.