Preventative mental health services for children as young as two will receive a funding boost under a re-elected Coalition government.
There would also be $6.9 million to build Victoria’s first child-only Prevention and Recovery Care facility, which will be based at Austin Hospital and provide support to children with more acute mental health problems.
As part of a youth mental health package, the Coalition has pledged to provide more than $9 million in further funding for clinical services for children aged between two and 11 years old.
Similar to the priority placed on physical and education development, Premier Denis Napthine said it was important that young people had the “opportunity to develop in terms of their mental health”.
He said that 75 per cent of severe mental health problems emerged before the age of 25.
“It’s vital that children of all ages are provided appropriate support and assistance and help if necessary if mental health or pre-mental health conditions occur,” he said.
A further 3500 teachers would also receive training under the SAFEMinds program, which helps staff identify emerging mental health problems in schoolchildren. Independent and Catholic schools would be included in the scheme for the first time.
The total package has been costed at $16.6 million.
Dr Napthine said the increased funding for clinical services and facilities would provide better access for children and their families so providers could “nip in the bud” emerging mental health problems.
“These young children warrant and deserve our identification, early intervention and treatment and support. That’s what this government is about and that’s what we are committed to do,” he said.
Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge said the package was a big step forward for primary-aged children who had shown signs of mental illness.
“Targeted specific funding which will enable us to identify and work with young children early will make a very significant difference,” she said.
This article first appeared on ‘The Age’ on 28 October 2014.