Today the National Cabinet endorsed a national plan that sets out the mental health and wellbeing priority areas for the overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic, building on the mental health supports announced by States and Territories including New South Wales.
Australians have not experienced a public health emergency like COVID-19 before. It has been a period of extraordinary stress, disruption and isolation for everyone and strong public health interventions have been essential to save lives.
Just as we have taken extraordinary steps to prevent our health services in NSW from being overwhelmed by the spread of COVID-19, we must now bolster our mental health system to ensure it is able to dynamically respond to future pressures.
In NSW, we have already invested an extra $73 million in mental health supports to improve the wellbeing of the whole community. This included 180 new mental health staff, additional funding for the NSW Mental Health Line, extra support for Telehealth and funding for every mental health ward to run additional therapeutic programs to aid recovery.
We are delivering new ‘safe spaces’ as alternatives to emergency departments as well as investing $6 million in Lifeline to expand their invaluable service.
As we move forward, it is essential that the States and Territories, which are responsible for delivering core services, are appropriately funded and that they remain at the centre of the decision-making process.
We look forward to working with our State and Territory counterparts, the Commonwealth and the newly appointed Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ruth Vine in shaping this plan.
I commend Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and Christine Morgan, National Suicide Prevention Adviser to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the National Mental Health Commissioner for supporting the development of the national mental health and wellbeing recovery pathway.
I also acknowledge my counterpart in Victoria, Martin Foley, Minister for Mental Health for his genuinely bipartisan collaboration throughout this process.