$14m mental health and community health care support package for Canberrans


The ACT Government is boosting funding for mental health, alcohol and other drug services and primary health care across the city, to support the wellbeing needs of Canberrans during lockdown.

This is one of the toughest periods in our city’s history and it is okay to reach out for help. Support is available.

Building on previous funding commitments to support people at risk of mental health challenges, the ACT Government is providing a further community support package to help Canberrans struggling during lockdown as well as an additional, longer term funding package for local mental health and community health support programs programs.  

The community and mental health COVID-19 support package will provide $3.6 million in additional support for the ACT community, including:

  • $1 million to expand the Police, Ambulance and Clinician Emergency Response (PACER) program, with an additional team for 6 months to support the community when they need it and in a familiar setting, such as their home.
  • $524,000 for Directions Health Services to meet increased demand for primary care and opioid maintenance treatment for clients who are unable to access pharmacies due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • $300,000 for Community Options to deliver additional support for social housing clients affected by COVID‑19 lockdowns
  • $300,000 for the Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocacy for additional Peer Treatment Support Workers, helping to support people with complex needs who are affected by public health measures .
  • $200,000 to provide more services and additional support for people affected by eating disorders $160,000 for flexible alcohol and other drug services to provide additional treatment and counselling support to those with substance abuse conditions.
  • $110,000 for the Interchange Health Co-op to improved access to primary care for some of Canberra’s most vulnerable.
  • $90,000 to extend services to young people suffering moderate to severe mental illness requiring more intensive support at home. 
  • $80,000 between Gugan Gulwan and Yeddung Mura to provide additional counselling and wellbeing supports to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans.
  • $70,000 to Mental Illness Education ACT for additional mental health programs for schools, individuals, and businesses in response to COVID-19.
  • $40,000 for Companion House to support additional counselling and social support services for asylum seekers and refugees.
  • $40,000 to CARE Financial Counselling to support people who have lost work and income during lockdown.

This will help to ensure that health care and support is accessible at this difficult time.

Our community sector partners have been a vital part of the COVID-19 response – both in supporting public health measures and ensuring Canberrans continue to have access to vital health services.

Additionally, the 2021-22 ACT Budget will include another $10.3 million to provide a more timely, supportive and accessible mental health system for young people and their families in the ACT, as well as funding to expand and improve alcohol and other drug services.

  • $7.5 million for a phased implementation of an integrated face-to-face and digital mental care for young people through an online platform delivered through the Moderated Online Social Therapy (MOST) program developed by Orygen,
  • $982,000 to expand the existing Needle and Syringe Program and to explore options for a medically supervised drug consumption facility, including the development of a suitable service model and a potential location.
  • $851,000 for Catholic Care’s Youth and Wellbeing program to provide multidisciplinary outreach service that supports young people (12-25 years) living with mental health concerns.
  • $503,000 to commence design work to deliver a new community-led alcohol and other drug and mental health treatment precinct. The includes design work for a new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residential alcohol and other drug rehabilitation facility in partnership with Winnunga Nimmityjah and for the redevelopment of the Ted Noffs Foundation and CatholicCare facilities in Watson.
  • $169,000 for Parentline to provide more support for parents, through phone referrals, counselling, face-to-face sessions and regular phone ‘check-ins’.

We have also worked with the Commonwealth Government to secure an additional $2.5 million to boost existing crisis, mental health and wellbeing services and, importantly, provide additional support to young Australians and at-risk communities.

Quotes attributable to Chief Minister, Andrew Barr:

We know the past 18 months has been extremely challenging for Canberrans. Through this package, the ACT Government will ensure Canberrans can continue to access the support they need through the current challenges and into the future.

We have been able to work with the Commonwealth Health Minister’s office to secure additional funding for local mental health and wellbeing services. I extend my thanks to Minister Hunt and his team for engaging productively with the ACT.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Health, Rachel Stephen-Smith:

This COVID-19 outbreak is directly affecting some of our most vulnerable community members. Many in our community are feeling isolated and experiencing mental health challenges for the first time, while for others the lockdown is exacerbating the impacts of past trauma.  

Canberra’s non-government primary care and alcohol and drug sector partners have been a critical part our public health response and the additional funding announced today ensures that this will be sustainable.

I look forward to continuing to work with the sector on the redevelopment of the Watson Health Precinct to deliver a world class alcohol and other drug and mental health treatment precinct, including a community controlled service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans in partnership with Winnunga Nimmityjah.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Mental Health, Emma Davidson:

Community mental health services are doing incredible work to support Canberrans during this public health crisis, building resilience and connectedness across our communities. The ACT Government is investing in these trusted partnerships to support people with a wide range of lived experiences and needs.

This combination of short and long-term funding will help the ACT’s mental health services meet our community’s increased need for support as a result of this lockdown and will improve community wellbeing. The funding will help people to better understand their mental health and wellbeing needs well beyond the lockdown, and have greater access to support when and where they need it.

Canberrans have been amazing at reducing transmission of COVID and helping each other stay safe and healthy during lockdown. It says a lot about the kindness and respect our community has for each other, especially those most at risk from this virus. For those who might need a bit of extra help with mental health and wellbeing, the ACT Government and our community sector partners are here to support you through this.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman:

Expansion of Police, Ambulance, Clinician Emergency Response (PACER) team is a win for our community, our first responders and health staff. It will enable more Canberrans to receive care in their home during these challenging times, remaining in the community rather than being hospitalised. 

PACER helps start recovery sooner from a better place while ensuring our first responders continue to support Canberrans throughout the pandemic.

During 2020, PACER teams responded to 1249 mental health callouts that resulted in 963 Canberrans avoiding hospitalisation.