A re-elected Turnbull Coalition Government will continue delivering on our promise to develop a digital mental health gateway that will ensure Australians get the right help at the right time in a bid to stop people falling through the cracks and save lives.
Reports that some phone counselling services have had their funding ‘axed’ are therefore incorrect and misleading.
Our digital gateway is a key recommendation of the Mental Health Commission’s (MHC) landmark Report and is being implemented in line with the guidance provided by our independent Mental Health Expert Review Committee, who were tasked with taking the MHC’s findings from paper to policy.
In addition to our digital gateway being a first point of entry to mental health services across the country, Australians will have the option to call one single phone number to access the mental health phone and online services they need.
This single phone number will act as a triage service that will put them in touch with a specialist phone or online service that is best suited to their personal circumstances.
For example, the triage service may determine a person would be best serviced by a specialist counselling service addressing LGBTIQ mental health or eating disorders, rather than a general service.
The triage service is not designed to replace existing phone counselling services, but enhance access to them.
Australians will still be able to call their preferred phone counselling service directly if they believe this is the best service to help them.
We are undertaking this crucial reform because the Mental Health Commission and Expert Reference Group found there were over 30 phone and online mental health services in Australia, but no co-ordinated way to access them.
This means people with specific mental health needs may not have been aware of specialist services or were falling through the cracks altogether.
It also means many of these mental health phone services were being overburdened – or underutilised – because people were not aware of alternative services that may better suit their mental health needs.
Another key recommendation of the Mental Health Commission was that some – but not all – phone and online mental health services may be unnecessarily duplicating each other’s work and funding may be better targeted to ensure a high-quality mix of services to cover the varying mental health needs of Australians by filling service gaps.
The Coalition will therefore work with all phone and online mental services to transition to this new model of improving access to over-the-phone/online mental health services from 2017-18, including greater funding security. Until then, all services will continue to be funded at current levels.
I understand the importance of mental health organisations running fundraising drives, however it is important their campaigning methods do not end up hurting those who they are ultimately meant to help.
Labor treated mental health as a “second-term priority”. Only the Coalition is committed to delivering these brave and bold reforms aimed at ensuring Australians with mental health issues no longer fall through the cracks.