Liberals say they’ll improve mental healthcare

A CANBERRA Liberals government will increase the ACT’s acute mental healthcare capacity, fast-track a rehabilitation facility for people with eating disorders, look into extending Canberra Hospital’s mental health unit, reform laws around how to recognise mental health injury for frontline workers and ensure inmates suffering severe mental health challenges receive help. 

With patients sometimes waiting about 16.2 hours before being admitted into dedicated mental healthcare, the party says there are mounting concerns that patients will fall through the cracks as the mental health system struggles to cope, which is why it will launch a series of initiatives to improve mental healthcare and back staff who are under enormous pressure.

A Canberra Liberals government promises to increase capacity to provide acute mental healthcare in the public health system with an extra 20 mental health beds and 55 new mental health staff in Canberra’s north, it will scope the capacity to expand the Adult Mental Health Unit as part of the Canberra Hospital Master Planning process, and will fast-track a residential rehabilitation facility for people with eating disorders, by bringing forward funding for capital works to this financial year.

The Liberals say this will bridge the gap between the $13.5 million in Commonwealth funding starting in 2021-22.

The Liberals also plan to introduce new laws to reform the way we recognise and manage mental injury sustained by frontline healthcare workers in the course of their duties.

“New ‘presumptive’ legislation will remove the onus from frontline healthcare workers who currently have to prove their injury. Instead, the presumption will be that their injury occurred from their stressful and potentially dangerous and traumatic duties,” says a Canberra Liberals spokesperson.

Liberal spokeswoman for Police and Emergency Services Giulia Jones said Canberra’s frontline healthcare workers who suffer mental injury on the job shouldn’t have to battle the system to get the care they need.

“With the right legislative framework, we can provide the mental health care that our respected healthcare workers deserve,” Mrs Jones said.

The Canberra Liberals will also guarantee funding for another year on the Police, Ambulance and Clinician Early Response program to provide a comprehensive response to mental health emergencies.

“We will review the program with a view to increasing its funding to allow for two teams and more operating hours,” Mrs Jones said.

The Canberra Liberals will also ensure inmates suffering from severe mental health challenges receive independent psychiatric assessment when disputes arise over their care plans.

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