A COMMITMENT to mental health funding for the next financial year has been welcomed by service providers as the government continues its review of programs and services.
The federal government has extended the current funding, with $300 million for community-based mental health programs for a further 12 months.
Until last week's announcement, many regional mental health care workers faced uncertainty in their positions as they were not guaranteed funding after June 30.
The announcement follows an open letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott and federal Health Minister Sussan Ley from mental health care providers.
They asked for urgent action and said the issue had reached crisis point as staff were looking for new jobs and winding down services.
Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) president Professor Dennis Pashen was concerned regional mental health care workers would move to metropolitan areas to look for work if the funding wasn't continued.
"It's already hard to recruit into rural and regional communities, particularly with that skill set," Mr Pashen said.
"Like all health workforces, you need continuity of staff to make mental health programs work.
"You can't buy knowledge of a community and patients - that takes time."
Mr Pashen said rural communities had the highest suicide rates in Australia, but people living in rural areas received less than one-third of Medicare expenditure per head than metropolitan people.
The RDAA had argued the loss of mental health services would increase pressure on rural doctors.
"Sixty per cent of all health costs in rural areas are attributable to mental health issues, whether it's depression, suicide, alcohol and drug issues, or domestic violence issues.
"Demand for mental health programs is constantly increasing."
Ms Ley said negotiations for future funding would begin immediately, with priority placed on frontline services.