Page 2923 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 12 October 2022

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MS DAVIDSON (Murrumbidgee—Assistant Minister for Families and Community Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Justice Health, Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Veterans and Seniors) (11.24): The budget priorities for mental health in this budget are aligned with the vision of the ACT’s Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing—a kind, connected and informed community working together to promote and protect the mental health and wellbeing of all. The investments that we are making in this budget demonstrate the value of our Office for Mental Health and Wellbeing in being able to build upon their years of research and analysis and strong working relationships across ACT government, with commonwealth Health and with our community sector partners.

The need for mental health services has been increasing for years in the ACT, as it has across Australia. COVID-19 brought additional challenges, with social isolation and economic impacts. All of this built upon the existential anxiety around our changing climate and growing levels of social and economic inequality, layer upon layer. These mental wellbeing impacts will be felt by our community long after the virus itself has ceased to be a threat.

COVID-19 also brought additional pressures to bear on our mental health workforce. Nurses, doctors and clinicians, allied health professionals, and the food service and security and administrative staff across our health services have all had to deal with more than two years of relentless extra workload, wearing uncomfortable PPE and responding with compassion to our community in a time of need. It is great to see CHS consulting with the workforce on how we can better support their mental wellbeing, with the $8.75 million investment in the Health Workforce Wellbeing and Recovery Fund. Our healthcare workers are the best experts in knowing what is most useful to them, and initiatives that are co-designed with them are the right way to provide that much-needed support.

For some services in particular, such as Dhulwa forensic mental health service, there have been specific work health and safety issues that needed to be addressed urgently. I look forward to receiving the report from the independently chaired inquiry into Dhulwa in the first week of November, in particular the draft implementation plan, and discussing next steps and actions with Canberra Health Services and unions, including the ANMF.

One of the biggest pressures on our health system has been the increased volume of demand, combined with increased acuity of people in need of care. This is why our budget investments this year continue to focus on earlier intervention and delivery of services in the community closer to where people live.

PACER—the police, ambulance, clinician and early response team—has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing the need for a person in mental health crisis to go to the emergency department. This is important for more effective, long-term mental health outcomes, because it keeps the person connected to services that can help them in the community. Emergency departments, with their bright lights and noise, are not a great place to be for anyone, but especially for someone in a mental health crisis. The success of the first PACER team prompted investment in a trial of a second PACER team. This has now been extended to a full-year trial of the second

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