Budget 2021: Digital mental health services to see AU$110m injection

Australia's mental health system will receive a AU$2.3 billion investment package as part of this year's federal Budget, with a portion to go into expanding digital mental health services while another will go into extending financial support for telehealth services until the end of the year.

The Australian government will provide AU$111.2 million over four years to expand and enhance the nation's digital mental health services to provide Australians with easier access to high quality digital mental health services.

The decision to allocate funds into expanding digital mental services was made to ensure Australians are able to quickly access appropriate care, Budget documents say. The funding is part of a larger AU$2.3 billion package dedicated specifically for expanding Australia's mental health and suicide prevention services.

"The AU$2.3 billion package in this Budget is a first step to responding to recommendations from the Productivity Commission and the National Suicide Prevention Adviser. With this commitment to Australians' mental health, the government is laying the foundations for systemic, whole-of-government reform to deliver preventative, compassionate, and effective care," the government said.

AU$117.2 million will also be spent over four years, from 2012-22, to establish a national database on service delivery, performance, and outcomes across the mental health system. 

Meanwhile, AU$365.7 million will spent on improving access to primary care and other health services in residential aged care, with some of that to go into digital assistance to make it easier to navigate the aged care system. The government did not provide details on how much would be spent on improving digital assistance, however.

Money has also been allocated towards modernising diagnostic imaging, with AU$7.2 million to be spent on the development of an integrated electronic diagnostic imaging referral system.

The federal government also provided more details on its decision to extend financial support for telehealth services to the end of the year, detailing that it will provide an additional AU$204.6 million, instead of the AU$114 million it initially declared, as part of the 2021-22 Budget.

The extension of telehealth includes services for general practitioners, medical practitioners, specialists, consultant physicians, nurse practitioners, participating midwives, allied health providers, and dental practitioners.

The additional funding comes off the back of telehealth services being used by millions of Australians. A fortnight ago, Health Minister Greg Hunt said over 56 million COVID-19 Medicare Benefits Scheme telehealth services were delivered to 13.6 million patients from 13 March 2020 to 21 April 2021.

IF YOU OR ANYONE YOU KNOW IN AUSTRALIA NEEDS HELP, CONTACT ONE OF THESE SERVICES:

  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
  • MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
  • Headspace on 1800 650 890
  • QLife on 1800 184 527