Helen Haines has welcomed the Government finally fulfilling a promise to deliver mental health funding, almost 15 months since the original commitment.

The Health Minister Greg Hunt has today re-announced the delivery of $338,000 for mental health services in the Upper Murray that he first announced in Wodonga on 15 January 2020.

Dr Haines, the Independent Federal Member for Indi, who has run a dogged campaign to secure the delivery of the funding, heralded the win as much-needed victory for the Upper Murray:

“Anyone who knows the Upper Murray, who was there in those terrible days in early January 2020, knows how hard those fires hit. The mental health impacts have been huge. It’s unacceptable that it took so long for this funding to be delivered, but it’s fantastic that we have finally secured it”.

The news comes just six days after Dr Haines publicly demanded the Health Minister deliver on the commitment.

Dr Haines said that the significant delay in delivering the funding was unacceptable:

“The Government today acknowledged that this funding was originally promised on 15th January 2020 – that is 469 days ago. I don’t see why it took them 15 months and two announcements just to get a small amount of funding to our region”.

“As a Melbourne-based Liberal Party Senator said today, it is well over 12 months since the bushfires. If the Government had a better understanding of how the fires impacted our community, then perhaps they would have delivered this funding sooner”.

“I recognise there’s been a pandemic on. But if the Government spent half as much time on delivery rather than driving up from Melbourne for re-announcements, we might be in a better place”.

According to Dom Sandilands, the CEO of Corryong Health, which will deliver the mental health services, today’s announcement delivers two-thirds of the original commitment that was outstanding:

“On behalf of the Upper Murray region and Corryong Health, we are delighted with the announcement today that the $338,000 balance of the mental health bushfire support will be paid.”

“This money will be going towards implementing our Upper Murray Community Suicide Prevention Plan which is currently open to community consultation ”, said Mr Sandilands, “these funds will also further bolster our mental health services and community inclusion activities”.

Mr Sandilands said that in addition to the bushfire recovery funding, Corryong Health is seeking a commitment of ongoing mental health funding for the region:

“Even our basic mental health service is chronically underfunded. We need just $295,000 a year to run our basic mental health services, but right now we’re only funded in small packages for a few months at a time. It makes it impossible to deliver a proper service for Towong and the Upper Murray”.

Mr Sandilands thanked Dr Haines for backing the Upper Murray and Senator Jane Hume for the funding support.

“I’ve been meeting with Helen regularly since the fires and we’ve worked on community recovery together. I know she understands how important this issue is to the Upper Murray, and I’m so grateful for helping us get a response from the Government like this”.

Dr Haines, a former nurse and midwife, backed Mr Sandilands’ call for guaranteed ongoing funding:

“I’ve spent 35 year working in the hospitals of North East Victoria. I know what it looks like when we fail to properly fund our mental health services. That’s why I’m so passionate about securing this funding”.

“People like Dom Sandilands at Corryong Health work absolutely tirelessly for their communities, and they do it on a shoestring budget. We shouldn’t wait until the next fire to properly fund mental health in the Upper Murray”.

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