The Victorian government has been criticised for closing a 24-hour mental health helpline due to underperformance.
The Mental Health Advice Line was closed on March 19, leaving many residents – particularly those in remote or rural areas – with reduced access to specialised counselling services.
"The Mental Health Advice Line has not met expectations since it started in 2009, averaging around 800 calls per month," a spokesman for health minister Mary Wooldridge told the ABC (March 19).
"From 19 March, anyone calling the mental health advice line will be transferred to Nurse-on-call which operates 24 hours a day."
Figures released by the federal government's Private Health Insurance Ombudsman indicate that one in five Australians will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime.
The parliamentary secretary assisting the shadow minister for health, Wade Noonan, believes the cost-cutting move will have a significant impact.
"People struggling with a mental health issue have enough barriers to accessing care without losing an important service," he said (March 19).
Access to psychology service may be covered by some private health insurance policies and currently a Medicare rebate of up $120 can be claimed if a Mental Health Treatment Plan and referral is obtained from a GP.