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Pandemic declaration extended, but COVID mental health programs axed

Victorian Nationals

Mental health programs designed to support Victorians through COVID isolation and uncertainty have been axed, despite last week’s three-month extension to pandemic declaration powers.

It’s been revealed today Kids Helpline is among more than 15 organisations offering COVID recovery mental health support programs to be hit by $59.4 million in Andrews Labor Government funding cuts.

A free 24/7 phone and online children’s counselling service run by Kids Helpline was among the programs to be cut – despite an overwhelming number of kids reporting their mental health is “being overlooked”.

Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy said it was the wrong move after the government had decided to keep its power to put Victorians back into lockdown until mid-October.

“It is desperately short-sighted and cruel that the government has cut funding at a critical time,” Ms Kealy said.

“And it comes as the Andrews Labor Government’s extended its power to put Victorians back into lockdown for another three months meaning more uncertainty for families and kids.

“Victorians should remember this November that as the Premier’s power trip continues to take an emotional toll on Victorians, Labor has cut vital mental health programs that were designed to support Victorians through COVID.

“But Labor is also ignoring other measures that could be implemented immediately to make sure Victorians can get the help they need, when they need it.”

Data from the YourTown project reported 95 per cent of young participants experiencing negative impacts from lockdowns, while 75 per cent self-reported a mental health crisis during lockdowns.

Other cuts by the Labor Government this year include COVID-related mental health programs run by Anxiety Recovery Centre Victoria, Eating Disorders Victoria, Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, the YMCA, Beyond Blue and Lifeline.

Ms Kealy said the program cuts came as the mental health workforce also suffered shortages.

“We have a responsibility to do more for Victorians before they reach crisis point,” Ms Kealy said.

“Key to this is making sure there’s enough psychologists, counsellors, GPs and mental health experts.

“Only a Liberals and Nationals government elected in November will implement the nation’s largest health worker recruitment drive.

“Our plan for thousands of scholarships, relocation support packages and extra training places for psychologists and psychiatrists will get more people into Victoria’s mental health system as soon as possible.”

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