News Focus | Wimmera crisis support demand outweighs capacity

File photo.
File photo.

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WIMMERA organisations say they need a greater capacity to help people in crisis.

Grampians Community Health and Uniting Wimmera mental health programs and support are in demand, but leaders are concerned they do not have the scope or funding to meet the level of need.

Grampians Community Health chief executive Greg Little said the agency had responded to a number of suicides in the past financial year alone.

“This is a tragedy that is occurring in our communities,” he said.

“Grampians Community Health is solely funded for generalist counselling, only this does not include suicide prevention or intervention, or support to families affected by suicide.

“Unfortunately we don’t have the capacity to meet all the needs at the time they immediately present and we have to prioritise.

“Of course, when we are aware there is or is potentially a suicide or attempt, we respond immediately, which places pressure on staff who have already large caseloads.

“It is unusual for our program manager, team leader and counsellors not to personally take on these cases when they present, as we can’t let people not get support.

“It is important for the community to know they can walk in and have someone to talk to, to assist with an intervention or make a plan with that person so that we do not not lose them.

“It would be great if we had the resources or the funding to do this.”

Grampians Community Health community mental health manager Mia Fraser said ideally, 24/7 support would be available in rural areas through face-to-face and outreach services.

“People are reaching out and we are not able to be there at lot of the time simply due to funding not being available,” she said.

“Ultimately if we could have one funded wish, it would be for face-to-face early intervention for people in our community with suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts and support for families affected by suicide, having the ability to go to them and for them to come to us.”

Ultimately if we could have one funded wish, it would be for face-to-face early intervention for people in our community with suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts and support for families affected by suicide, having the ability to go to them and for them to come to us.

Mia Fraser

Uniting Wimmera mental health manager Alex Hall said the organisation was concerned changes with the National Disability Insurance Scheme could mean people in need would miss out on vital services.

“We offer a community-based mental health support program, that focuses on building people’s capacity and skills,” she said.

“In the past our program has been well-utilised.

“At the moment we have the challenge of changing to a new funding model with the NDIS. People need to be eligible for an NDIS plan to access some of our services. 

“There are some people we currently see who have serious mental health issues, but they might not be eligible for the NDIS.

“Our concern is for the people who are perhaps going to fall into a gap. It's important they get support before their mental health deteriorates or they get to crisis point.”

Mrs Hall said the state government had recently announced funding for mental health, but it was geared almost exclusively to clinical services that met the needs of people in crisis.

“The point with community-based care is that it's an essential service to intervene before people get to crisis point,” he said.

“Uniting Wimmera is now part of a bigger organisation, and they'll certainly be advocating to the government to identify ways to meet the gaps.

“In terms of the programs we offer in our mental health team, we are committed to continuing to develop these, and looking at whatever sorts of funding we can to make them accessible to anyone who would benefit from them.”