Mental health cuts reduce access for Gippslanders

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien says residents across Gippsland will miss out on important mental health services that the Victorian Minister has cruelly labelled as “no longer required”.

Mr O’Brien was commenting after the announcement of the 2022-23 State Budget which includes $60 million in cuts from mental health programs.

Asked to explain the cuts, Mental Health Minister James Merlino claimed the programs were “no longer required” (Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearings, Monday 16 May 2022).

“Funding is being cut for services addressing perinatal anxiety and depression, as well as crisis helplines supporting people experiencing suicidal thoughts,” Mr O’Brien said.

“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.

“Our community has made it clear to me that more mental health support services – not less – is a local priority.

“Our local football clubs have led the way with Sale City and Rosedale hosting a dedicated round in April to remember those taken by the black dog and encouraging all that it’s okay to say if you don’t feel okay.

“These efforts are being undermined by a government that seems to think providing avenues for those who are brave enough to ask for help is “not required”.”

The budget cuts also come as close to 90,000 Victorians wait in pain, getting sicker, on long delayed hospital surgery waitlists.

Mr O’Brien 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 the past two years,” Ms O’Brien said.

“Crisis helplines are a vital support for people in Gippsland, who may live hours from specialist support.

“Only a change in government in November will ensure regional Victorians get our fair share.”

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