NSW budget focus turns to mental health

Gus McCubbing and Nick Brown
·2-min read

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has temporarily turned his budget focus from the COVID-hit economy to health, particularly the mental health of young people.

His pre-budget announcements on Sunday included adding 100 new school-based nurses to support students at a cost of $46.8 million and spending $6 million to help communities tackle suicide.

Mr Perrottet said the funding over four years would allow thousands more students to have access to a nurse at school by extending an existing program.

"This commitment is an investment in the mental health of young people across the state and will build a more resilient post-pandemic NSW for the future," the treasurer said in a statement.

NSW Mental Health Minister Bronnie Taylor said an evaluation of six pilot sites found the wellbeing nurses had successfully supported vulnerable students for a range of health and mental wellbeing issues.

"We saw that school children often go and see the nurse about general health issues and once they are there, open up about other problems they have been experiencing," she said.

"The nurses will be given mental health training but are also there to deliver general health care and advice at the right time."

Nurses in the existing program are based in primary and secondary schools in Young, Tumut, Cooma, Deniliquin, Murwillumbah and Lithgow.

The three-year suicide initiative for the 2020/21 budget will establish 12 "community wellbeing collaboratives" in high-risk communities.

The collaboratives will bring together medical staff, police, teachers, parents, carers, Aboriginal bodies and local councils.

"These peoople will ensure - through Lifeline, through Headspace - that our kids get the help they need," Mr Perrottet told reporters.

"We know that many young kids this year have been doing it very tough and we want to make sure they get ... the mental health support they need."

In the event of a suicide cluster, the government is tasking the collaboratives to rapidly respond "from the ground up".

"Evidence tells us that the best response to suicide comes from a local grass roots level," Mrs Taylor said.

The state budget will be delivered on Tuesday.

LATEST NSW BUDGET ANNOUNCEMENTS ALSO INCLUDE:

* $14.5 million to fit solar panels to eight hospitals and nine ambulance stations, expected to save $2.6 million in energy bills as well as reduce carbon emissions

* $2.5 million to develop a business case for a residential aged-care TAFE training facility to help meet national demand for up to an additional one million aged-care workers by 2050

* $500,000 for a feasibility study into a 80km shared cycle and pedestrian path along the foreshore of the Parramatta River and inner harbour.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636