$4.5 million COVID-19 mental health support package to help Canberrans


The ACT Government today announced $4.5 million in additional funding for mental health services to address increased demand by many Canberrans impacted by COVID-19.

“Canberrans have had a very difficult start to 2020 with poor air quality, bushfires, a major hailstorm and now the COVID-19 pandemic. These events have taken a toll on the mental health of so many of us.  The mental health and wellbeing of a community after one disaster is always concerning, let alone several in quick succession,” Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Mental Health said today.

“COVID-19 has been particularly difficult for some people because of the need for social distancing.  The financial challenges people are facing following significant job losses and financial insecurity is also leading to high levels of anxiety within the community.

“We’ve heard from our mental health service providers that they have seen a significant increase in people seeking mental health support, including from those who have never accessed their services before.

“We are stepping up our support for Canberrans in need with $4.5 million in new funding to support the mental health system to meet the growing demand and provide services to people who need them, when and where they need them.

“Funding will be provided to increase capacity of both government and non-government service delivery, as well as enabling new and innovative services,” Mr Rattenbury said.

The ACT Government will provide $2.55 million in additional funds to community mental health organisations to support their existing services to meet the increased demand from the Canberra community. The additional funds will be provided to organisations such as Lifeline Canberra, Menslink, the Way Back Support Service and OzHelp. 

The Government will also provide $1.9 million to expand Canberra Health Services programs responding to and supporting people experiencing a mental health crisis.

“When people are experiencing a mental health crisis, we need to have services in place to get them the care they need quickly wherever they may be.

“We will provide an additional $720,000 to expand the Access Mental Health and Home Assessment Acute Response Team and $720,000 to expand the Police, Ambulance, Clinician Emergency Response (PACER) service to operate 7 days a week.

“There is also an investment of $342,000 to create two Canberra Safe Haven Cafés which will be managed in partnership with a community mental health NGO. These cafés are a new initiative in the ACT and will provide a safe alternative to the emergency department and other treatment services for adults over 18 years experiencing loneliness, personal difficulties, or simply seeking social connection,” Mr Rattenbury said.

Minister for Health, Rachel Stephen‑Smith said, “the Package includes $100,000 in additional support for Canberra’s LGBTIQ+ community to ensure key services can continue to be delivered by A Gender Agenda and Aids Action Council ACT.

“The Government is also allocating an additional $100,000 for grief and loss counselling. This investment is in recognition of the significant challenges the public health restrictions, hospital and aged care visitation rules and bushfires have had on people and families across the Canberra region.”

$450,000 is also allocated for funding further initiatives in the mental health sector as required. This money is available for innovative responses and new ways of working, and is intended to help community organisations fill gaps where they have identified an emerging need for additional mental health support within their services.

$250,000 has also been allocated to commission an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander targeted mental health program.

COVID-19 Mental Health Support Package (in full) - May 2020




Mental Health Foundation (MHF): additional accommodation for people exiting acute inpatient units


Community Mental Health and Wellbeing Communications Campaign


Access Mental Health and Home Assessment Acute Response Team (HAART) Expansion


Police, Ambulance, Clinician Emergency Response (PACER) expansion to 7 days


MIEACT: increased community mental health education and awareness


OzHelp: additional support for people who have lost or may lose employment and livelihood



Additional support for Lifeline Canberra to meet call-in demand (includes $100,000 announced on 20 March)


Menslink: increased counselling for boys and young men (includes $80,000 previously announced)


Additional investment in Detention Exit Community Outreach (DECO)


Funding for further initiatives in mental health sector as required


The Way Back Support Service: additional investment for people who have attempted suicide or are experiencing suicidal crisis


Commissioning an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander targeted mental health program


Grief Counselling Services: supporting people experiencing bereavement during COVID-19


Canberra Safe Haven Cafés: Supporting Social Connection



Perinatal Wellbeing Centre: addressing increased demand for post and antenatal depression support (includes $55,00 previously announced)


A Gender Agenda: supporting shift to online activities


AIDS Action Council: supporting shift to online telehealth and tele counselling services


Canberra Institute of Technology - MH Consumer Scholarship Scheme: support for online access


Marymead Child & Family Centre: support for online services

Statement ends

Media contact:
Lisa Wills               M 0481 035 764               E Lisa.Wills@act.gov.au