Families in Mildura and north-west Victoria will miss out on extra services addressing the devastating toll of perinatal anxiety and depression, which the Victorian Minister has cruelly labelled as “no longer required”.
The 2022-23 State Budget includes $60 million in cuts from mental health programs, with funding discontinued for services addressing perinatal anxiety and depression, and crisis helplines supporting people experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Asked to explain the cuts, Mental Health Minister James Merlino cruelly claimed the programs were “no longer required” (Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings, Monday 16 May 2022).
Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy said north-west Victorians will also be hit by $40 million in cuts to drug and alcohol treatment and prevention efforts.
“We know the mental health of all Victorians suffered through the pandemic, with crisis support lines reporting a skyrocketing number of calls for help and more young people experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression and eating disorders,” Ms Kealy said.
“The Mildura community has made it clear that more mental health support services – not less – is a local priority, with sustained community efforts recently successfully securing desperately needed residential rehabilitation.
“But while the Labor Government will spend $28.1 billion fixing cost blowouts on its mismanaged major projects, it has carved $60 million from mental health and a further $40 million from targeted spending on treatment and prevention programs for drug and alcohol abuse.
“There’s never been a more important time to ensure that support services keep their funding so we can reach the overwhelming number of people who need it.”
The budget cuts also come as close to 90,000 Victorians wait in pain, getting sicker, on long delayed hospital surgery waitlists.
Ms Kealy said it was a similar story in the mental health sector, with workforce shortages forcing children at crisis point to wait more than 60 days just to get an appointment with a counsellor.
“Support services are overwhelmed by demand from Victorians seeking help to deal with the lasting effects of six Labor lockdowns and years of isolating uncertainty,” Ms Kealy said.
“Crisis helplines are a vital support for people in Mildura, who may live hours from specialist support.
“Only a change in government in November will ensure regional Victorians get our fair share.”