Media release: Mental health and care boost welcomed

21 September 2021

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today welcomed substantial funding for Canberrans needing mental health, alcohol and other drug services and primary health care.

The ACT packages announced by ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr, Minister for Health, Rachel Stephen-Smith and Minister for Mental Health, Emma Davidson includes $14 million from the ACT Government, delivered now and in the coming ACT Budget.

$2.5 million from the Australian Government was also announced this morning by The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care.

ACTCOSS a/g CEO Craig Wallace said these were a ‘vital and very timely response to the unprecedented pressures now facing vulnerable Canberrans and organisations right now.

‘While we know lockdowns are a painful but necessary public health measure, especially for vulnerable people, the reality is that people’s incomes, relationships and physical situations are all under duress as the ACT enters its sixth week of an expected nine-week lockdown.

‘Community organisations are the canaries in the coalmine when people are in difficult circumstances due to loss of income, relationship breakdowns and mental health problems.

‘Only this morning ACTCOSS heard loud and clear from frontline organisations that they are experiencing levels and types of demand they have never seen before. People tell us the phones are ringing off the hook, almost every call is a crisis call and every worker is flat out.

“At the sharp end, the demand for mental health services has increased significantly during the lockdown with Lifeline Canberra reporting a 40 per cent increase in demand for its services”.

“COVID has exposed fractures and gaps already evident in supports for vulnerable people. ACTCOSS will also be looking for the coming budget to address a range of priorities and pressures facing those doing it tough through poverty and economic disadvantage in a city with runaway costs of living including housing.

“The details of the whole package are still coming available, and we look forward to getting into those in the coming days, but we warmly welcome what we’ve seen so far’, Mr Wallace concluded.

Speaking to the investments in the alcohol and other drug sector Dr Devin Bowles, Chief Executive Officer of the Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association ACT (ATODA) said “It is wonderful that the government is recognising the extra strain placed on the ACT community, and responding with increased resources for alcohol and other drug services. These are especially important now to help some of the most vulnerable people in Canberra achieve greater stability in a time of uncertainty.”

A summary of the funding can be seen below this release.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.

For more information or comment, please contact

Craig Wallace , A/g CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0477 200 755.

ACT and Federal Government community sector announcements – 21 September 2021

ACT Government

An additional $3.6m for the ACT community:

  • $1m to expand the Police, Ambulance and Clinician Emergency Response program
  • $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
  • $300,000 for Community Options to deliver 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

Foreshadowed measures:

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’.

Federal Funding:

  • $1.6 million to establish a Head to Health Pop-Up mental health clinic in the ACT and fast track the rollout of a phone Intake, Assessment and Referral support service
  • $400,000 to enhance eating disorder services in the ACT, including funding to boost clinical services at headspace and the Head to Health hub to provide additional support for young people with, or at risk of, an eating disorder and targeted e-therapy support
  • $320,000 to headspace for additional youth support, to assist headspace services with the surge in demand experienced during the lockdown
  • $150,000 to CatholicCare to support the Stepping Stones program for children aged 12 and under who have suffered trauma
  • $100,000 to Meridian ACT to boost support services for LGBTI+ people.

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