ACCESS to mental health beds is urgently needed in Horsham, a health provider says.
Ballarat Health Services is the closest location for Wimmera residents to access mental health beds.
The service's submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System addressed the need for more mental health beds in the region, suggesting Horsham as an ideal central location.
The service's submission said emergency departments in the Grampians were dealing with significantly higher numbers of people needing treatment for self harm than other parts of the state.
Horsham had the highest rate in the region, at 8.3 of intentional injury treated in hospital per 1000 people.
The overall rate for the region was 4.8, which was more than 50 per cent higher than the Victorian average of 3.1.
Ballarat Health Services mental health operations director and mental health nurse Mark Thornett said prevention was the most important aspect of mental health care.
"What we would like to see are some part-time beds in the Horsham area. It would mean local services could intervene earlier and patients could have that support network in their community," he said.
"It would be the ideal option moving forward because early intervention is the most important thing. We want to get ahead of the game rather than be reactive all the time.
"We have regular conversations with the Wimmera Health Care Group and they provide a lot of support through the emergency department when people present."
Ballarat Health Service's 23-bed acute patient unit is for mental health patients who need clinical support they can't get in the community. It has 24-hour access to doctors and psychiatrists.
The service's other acute beds are spread out in other areas. Mr Thornett said the service had 10 beds specifically for acute patients over the age of 65.
"Older people can also have self-harm or suicidal ideation," he said.
"For younger people who need support, we negotiate with other services in metropolitan Melbourne for dedicated adolescent units.
"There are only four of those in the state because they find adolescents are better treated in the community rather than in a hospital."
The next steps
BALLARAT Health Services' Royal Commission submission also suggested the Prevention and Recovery Care (PARC) model was expanded into more regional areas.
PARC services treat people experiencing severe and acute mental health episodes, providing a mix of clinical and psycho-social support.
Ballarat is the last health area in Victoria to receive a PARC facility and construction is underway for a 12-bed centre. Six of the beds will be for shorter stays, while the other six will be for longer stays.
The centre is expected to open next year.
Mr Thornett said the service was almost ready to launch the Hospital Outreach Post-suicidal Engagement (HOPE) Initiative locally.
The HOPE Initiative provides tailored and holistic support to people after an attempt to take their own life with the aim of supporting them through specified counselling.
The program follows up patients for three months after presenting, linking them with social support systems. It also allows patients to return home to their support networks.
If a person does become acutely unwell again, they are fast-tracked back into the system.
"When people present to the emergency department for intentional injury or an attempt to take their own life, there is a lot of research from Beyond Blue that says they don't want a clinical service," he said.
"They could be presenting for psycho-social circumstances such as a relationship break-down or loss of a job which create a feeling of hopelessness."
Mr Thornett said Ballarat Health Services recently received second-round funding to provide the HOPE Initiative.
"We're in the process of establishing it and have a partnership with Beyond Blue using their The Way Back Support Service. We're also close to signing a contract with a non-government provider in the Ballarat-Horsham area to provide those services. It should be launched shorty," he said.
Mr Thornett said he hoped the Royal Commission would also address the importance of urgent care for mental health patients.
"We would like to see mental health elevated to the same sort of level as someone who is presenting with a serious physical health issue - so giving them the same kind of priorities and urgent care in the emergency department to someone who has had a heart attack," he said.
The Mail-Times has contacted Wimmera Health Care Group for comment.
Rates remain high
SUICIDE remains one of the Wimmera's most common causes of death.
An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, published in August 2018, revealed the most common causes of death by Local Government Area. It used data from all deaths that occurred between January 2012 and December 2016.
Suicide was the 20th most common cause of death in Horsham Rural City attributing for 1.2 per cent of all deaths. There were 10 deaths reported.
Suicide was the 17th most common cause of death in Ararat Rural City at 1.4 per cent of all deaths, with eight deaths reported. It was also the 17th most common cause of death in Northern Grampians Shire at 1.5 per cent and 10 deaths reported.
Nationally, suicide was the 13th most common cause of death with 13,965 deaths reported in the data. A recent poll through Suicide Prevention Australia found that more than 10 million Australian adults were estimated to have known someone who had died by suicide.
- If you, or someone you know needs support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Help on 1800 55 1800 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
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