At Radiant, we are aware there is a lot of uncertainty right now. Therefore we aim to post information as it becomes available. The following is a conglomeration of what we have found through multiple news sources regarding the Governments mental health response to the Coronavirus Crisis.
Please note that this information is changing daily, so if you’re looking for mental health support via telehealth it would be best to check with your health professional to ensure your needs can be supported under medicare.
There have been two recent government announcements:
On 11 March 2020, Scott Morrison MP, announced a $2.4 Billion health plan to fight COVID-19 to protect all Australians, including vulnerable groups such as the elderly, those with chronic conditions and Indigenous communities, from COVID-19.
On 29th March 2020, it was announced that from 30 March 2020, telehealth (video-conference) and phone consultation items would be available to all Australians, as a temporary six-month measure.
What are the changes to mental health services?
The changes include measures to support mental health and wellbeing for Australians during this crisis, giving people direct access to online support and counselling services when and where they need it most.
What is included in mental health funding?
Beyond the expansion Medicare funding, the Government is providing the following extra mental health support to Australians at this time:
- Dedicated Coronavirus digital resources and a 24×7 phone counselling service led by Beyond Blue and staffed by accredited mental health professionals to help people experiencing stress or anxiety associated with the impacts of the pandemic, such as health concerns, employment changes, business closures or family pressures. Beyond Blue will establish this service, supported by a $5m donation from Medibank, an ongoing Beyond Blue partner.
- Funding to bolster critical phone and online support services, including Lifeline and Kids Helpline, ensuring they can meet anticipated increased demand and providing job opportunities for Australians to be trained as counsellors. Extra funding will bolster other existing services including digital peer-support to people with urgent, severe and complex mental illness who may be experiencing additional distress.
- A dedicated mental health and well-being program for front-line health workers will provide online and phone services, giving front-line workers support when and where they need it.
- The Community Visitors Scheme will be expanded, with funding for extra staff and volunteers to ensure older people receiving aged care support, stay connected on line and by phone even though they may be physically separated from others.
headspace will expand its digital work and study service, to help younger Australians stay on track in their education and training and prepare them for the workforce.
- For First Australians, new culturally appropriate mental health and well-being resources will be developed by Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) across a range of platforms.
- Increased funding for Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) to bolster its free helpline (1300 726 306) and produce new tool kits and resources to support expecting and new parents cope with increased stress and anxiety.
- Funding to continue to deliver psychosocial support to Commonwealth community mental health clients for a further 12 months. This will allow additional time for people with severe and complex mental illness to complete their applications and testing for support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
- A targeted mental health communications campaign as part of the broader Coronavirus communications campaign. This will include wide-ranging advertising, social media engagement, education and awareness initiatives to keep the conversation going about mental health as the full impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic emerge.
- Continued expansion of the resources provided on the Government’s digital mental health gateway Head to Health, giving people access to trusted mental health information and services.
How can I access support?
Below are some more information about how to access different types of mental health support.
- Digital mental health resources: Many reputable websites are providing information about how to manage mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak. Phone and online mental health services are also available to support you in managing the impacts of COVID-19 on your mental health and wellbeing, such as stress and anxiety, isolation and loneliness, or feelings of depression. Check out Head to Health for digital mental health resources.
- Health professionals and Medicare items: Medicare has also made several telehealth mental health services several telehealth mental health services bulk-billable in certain circumstances, for the period 13 March 2020 to 30 September 2020 inclusive. This means eligible people can access mental health services through videoconferencing or telephone instead of attending a face-to-face session. Check with your health professional to see if you will be able to access these new telehealth items during the period.
In the coming week or so telehealth should be available to all Australians, however, as the Medicare claim items are still being rolled out to health professionals you may find that the following groups are only currently eligible:
- Are self-isolating because you have returned from overseas recently, have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or have otherwise been advised to self-isolate by a medical practitioner
- Are aged over 70 (over 50 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples)
- Have a chronic health condition or are immunocompromised
- Are pregnant or are a parent with a new baby
- If your health practitioner is in self-isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, you may also be able to receive Medicare rebates for telehealth sessions with them.
If you require urgent mental health help please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14