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  • Jason Regan

Vic opposition spruiks mental health plan

The Victorian opposition has laid out an alternative pitch to fix the state's "broken" mental health system if it wins government but is yet to reveal how much it will cost.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy unveiled the initial stage of his mental health plan at Federation University's Ballarat campus on Tuesday, more than nine months out from the state election. 

Under the plan, the Victorian Liberal-National coalition would launch the nation's "largest-ever recruitment drive" within 100 days of taking office. It would also take steps to recognise qualified counsellors as mental health practitioners in Victorian schools, opening the door for an extra 2000 to carry out the role.

"There is a massive mental health crisis that needs to be fronted head-on and dealt with," Mr Guy told reporters.
"Some of this plan will bring mental health workers into every Victorian school, where they're needed the most at this point in time."

Before the last election, the Labor government promised every Victorian government secondary school would have access to a mental health practitioner and it is now trialling a mental health pilot program in 100 primary schools.

Other elements of the opposition's plan include pumping financial support into helping university students, seeking to create more training places for psychiatrists and psychologists and relocation packages to lure mental health workers from other states and territories.

Mr Guy did not reveal how much the proposals would cost or how the coalition intended to pay for them but said voters would not have to wait long.

"The final part of the costings on this will be released with our full mental health plan," he said.
"That's coming in stages, so you'll see that when that's released in just over a month."

Mental health is shaping as a key battleground for the state election on November 26 after a royal commission found the state's system was "broken", with critical shortages in the sector.

In response, the Andrews government committed $3.8 billion to overhaul the system as part of the 2021/22 state budget and has since pledged millions more.

The royal commission proposed a levy to pay for the mental health reforms, with laws coming into effect from January 1 this year requiring big businesses to pay an additional 0.5 per cent surcharge.

The government-backed levy is expected to raise more than $788 million next financial year. Since returning to the leadership last September, Mr Guy has said he would repeal the levy if the Victorian coalition wins government.

Mental Health Minister James Merlino said the plan has "no costings" and is "all spin and no substance".

"The opposition's plan to repeal the levy means the hundreds of extra beds we're already busy building will sit empty, without doctors, nurses and psychologists to provide life-saving care to everyone who needs it - and Victorians deserve better," he said.
"Real systemic change takes courage and time - while the Liberal Nationals continue to play politics with initiatives we have already delivered, we'll keep getting on with our work to build a mental health system our state can be proud of."


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