Federal Government To Expand Mental Health Help With $1.1 Billion Coronavirus Program
Australians will be able to consult their GP over the phone and access new coronavirus-specific mental health support as part of a new $1.1 billion package.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the latest round of spending is designed to help relieve secondary effects of the health and economic crises that the coronavirus outbreak has triggered.
"Right now, it is about getting more support to people in the community that need it most, and that is fair healthcare, that is the protection for vulnerable Australians and that emergency relief, and that is what this $1.1 billion package I have announced today will be addressing," Morrison said.
The deadly virus is not only having physical effects but is also detrimental to people's mental health, which is why the Federal Government has unveiled plans to expand Medicare subsidies for telehealth to the entire population.
The government also announced the unveiling of a WhatsApp feature and coronavirus Apple app to update Australians on basic health advice.
As part of the package, the Morrison Government is also committing millions of dollars to domestic violence and mental health support services, as well as providing $200 million to charities and community organisations.
"Today is about taking care of our vulnerable Australians, all Australians and, in particular, our GPs and our nurses. It is about support for health and mental health, at a time of most profound and understandable stress," Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Sunday.
The bulk of the money will be put toward the expansion of Telehealth subsidies. While $669 million will ensure all Australians can consult their GP and other health practitioners by phone or video-conferencing.
"What we are doing now is a radical transformation in the way we deliver our health services. As of tomorrow, we will have universal telehealth available in Australia. It is a decade's worth of work in a matter of days," Hunt said.
In order to encourage GP practices to stay open for individuals who need face-to-face services, the bulk-billing incentive will be doubled between now and the end of September.
Another $150 million will go toward programs already in place to combat domestic violence.
"Google has shown a 75 per cent increase in searches when it comes to concerns about domestic violence in recent days," Morrison said.
"We need to put more resources into supporting people who will be vulnerable and may be vulnerable, and we are putting up support in."
BeyondBlue is also setting up a dedicated coronavirus wellbeing support line which will receive $10 million in funding from the government and $5 million from Medibank.
Its intention is to help people who are concerned because they've been diagnosed with the disease or are experiencing stress or anxiety due to things like employment changes or family pressures.
Existing services such as Lifeline and Kids Helpline will get a $14 million boost.
Headspace will receive $7 million to help young Australians, health care workers will be given $3 million, and older Australians will receive $10 million in financial support.
The financial measures come as Australia records two more deaths nationally on Sunday morning, bringing the total death toll to 16.