New digital services the first step towards a better, fairer mental health system

Australians will have access to 24/7 crisis support as the Australian Government invests in the future of our most trusted and effective digital mental health service providers.

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

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Australians will have access to 24/7 crisis support as the Albanese Government invests in the future of our most trusted and effective digital mental health service providers.


A $456.7m million five-year investment will give certainty to Lifeline’s crisis support service and its 13YARN service for First Nations Australians, along with Beyond Blue and Kids Helpline.


This funding will allow these national flagship services to keep pace with demand, providing core crisis support services with broad reach, including to people in rural and remote areas, children, young people and First Nations Australians.


In addition to this the Albanese government is providing $43.9 million to extend funding for a range of specialised digital mental health services through to June 2025.


A sector-led consortium will develop a new national approach to help people navigate digital services to get the support they need for their level of distress. This will foster greater collaboration across the sector and reduce system fragmentation. While this is being developed, the national Head to Health website and inbuilt navigation service will continue.


The funding provided will guarantee service continuity for these providers and importantly, it will ensure all Commonwealth digital mental health investments meet the National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards by July 1, 2025.


The digital reforms outlined are based on the  advice provided from the Mental Health Advisory Committee. Improving the quality of digital mental health services is the first step in the reform journey.


The Advisory Committee has considered solutions to a range of issues: from how to make services more accessible and affordable, to the best ways to deliver comprehensive, person-centred care for people with severe and complex needs.


The Advisory Committee has met four times this year and will be extended into 2024, as these complex reforms are worked through and help shape the Government’s response to the independent evaluation of the Better Access program.


The Better Access evaluation found many Australians – particularly people with lower incomes and those living in regional, rural and remote areas – were missing out on much-needed care.


The temporary addition of 10 Medicare-subsidised sessions introduced during COVID worsened these problems and meant tens of thousands of Australians missed out on getting any care, altogether.


An additional 45,000 people have received Better Access sessions in 2023 compared to the same period last year, since the former government’s scheduled end date of 31 December 2022.


While this is a positive step, more work is needed so all Australians — no matter where they live or what their circumstances — can get the mental healthcare they need.


The Advisory Committee has advised that additional Better Access sessions are not the solution for people with complex needs, and that clinicians and patients need a more sophisticated offering than additional mental health sessions.


Quotes attributable to Minister Butler:


“The mental health system is facing the same deep structural issues as the broader health system. Mental health reform is part of a bigger, long-term journey to strengthen the healthcare system.


“The Advisory Group has been invaluable in guiding the Government’s response to the Better Access evaluation, we will continue to work with the Committee as these reforms are progressed.


“We need a well-integrated mental health system, getting settings right the first time to reduce system fragmentation and ensure equitable access to care.”


Quotes attributable to Assistant Minister McBride:


“Ensuring support is just a few clicks, a text or a phone call away is crucial to supporting those in distress.


“The Albanese Government is backing in well-known, effective and trusted mental health services and we will work with them to make the most of digital technology in supporting people with different mental healthcare needs.”

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