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Gippland Medicare Local – Health & Wellbeing Survey


Gippsland Medicare Local (GML) is asking for the input of the Gippsland community on what it deems as the major health and wellbeing issues via a survey (see link below).

The survey requests the community’s opinions on health and wellbeing issues in Gippsland, access to programs and services, and suggestions for improvements. Anyone residing in Gippsland and over the age of 18 is welcome to complete a survey.

Participants who get involved in the assessment by providing feedback go in a draw to win one of 20 $50 vouchers to your closest supermarket.

Organisations with an interest in the health industry are also encouraged to complete the stakeholder survey form.

You can access the survey by clicking this link:

Reform Deeply Needed

Apparent workplace dissatisfaction at Latrobe Regional Hospital’s adult psychiatric unit, Flynn Ward, is eroding the service’s ability to cater for the region’s growing mental health needs, according to a leading advocate.

Derek Amos, chief executive of mental health advocacy group Barrier Breakers, said worker conditions and patient satisfaction at the ward had been a point of contention for some time.
“There’s been long-standing concerns about what they call the ‘fishbowl attitude’ at Flynn at the nurses stations, where the nurses were very rarely seen to be out in wards with the patients,” Mr Amos said.

“In our last communication with (LRH earlier this year) they informed us they would be changing their procedures, and nurses were going to spend a lot more time out on ward with patients.” The Express has been contacted by three mental health carers deeply dissatisfied with the treatment of their patients – in all cases close relatives – during admissions to the Flynn ward over the past 12 months.
“Whichever way you look at it, this all stems from an under resourced system, which is really the crux of the problem here,” Mr Amos said. “When there is such a great thoroughfare of patients through Flynn, there’s no question you are failing to address your patient’s needs, and there are a lot of staff who find that difficult to live with.”

Mr Amos said the situation uncovered a “deep” need for regional mental health services to be governed by dedicated mental health boards.

“The LRH board is responsible for cancer, medicine and all sorts of other departments and responsibilities, but we argue that mental illness is far more complex and deserves its own dedicated group of people to monitor accountability and respond to needs as they arise,” Mr Amos said.

Appeal for Life

An appeal has been launched to save the lives of young people contemplating suicide.

Gippsland advocates for mental health, Barrier Breakers, has been moved to act following representations from medical professionals, who have expressed grave concerns over cut-backs to Medicare, which are denying critical counselling support to vulnerable young people.

In launching the appeal, Barrier Breakers CEO, Derek Amos, said government cut-backs, limiting the number of counselling sessions with psychologists were now posing a very significant threat to recovery from depressive illnesses and increasing the risk of suicide.

He said these cut-backs reduced the number of consultations with psychologists that Doctors could refer their patients to under their mental health plan from 12-18 in any one year to 6-10 sessions.

So now, the current systems only provides a maximum of 10 sessions and this is grossly inadequate for some patients with severe depressive illness and complex needs.

Mr. Amos said the cut-backs were also placing a heavy burden on psychologists, many of whom are now forced to reduce or remit their fees so that patients at risk could continue to receive critical recovery care.

“Many patients are poor and their illnesses prevent employment, so their only form of income is the Newstart Allowance or Disability Support Pension”.

The simple fact of life is, they cannot afford to pay for these critical counselling sessions”.

Mr. Amos said Barrier Breakers was presenting a submission to the new federal Health Minister and the Treasurer.

“People’s lives are at grave risk here and we call upon the new federal government to restore these critical sessions back to the maximum of 18 consults per year.”

Mr. Amos said that because of the immediate seriousness of this situation, Barrier Breakers was seeking public contributions to create a relief fund, which will be used to assist the most vulnerable until the cut-backs were reversed.

Barrier Breakers has launched the appeal on their web-site and Facebook page and cited the case of a young woman with the fictional name of “Brenda”. 

“In asking Gippslanders to give generously to this appeal, we also call upon all Gippsland politicians to support the reinstatement of these essential counselling sessions”, Mr. Amos concluded.

For further information, contact Derek Amos on 0428397706.

What price a life? Will you help?

Young Brenda is only 23 years old and has already defeated death twice. She is desperately clinging to life and hopes and prays that every new day will make her stronger so that she can function normally and be a valued member of her community.

You see, Brenda suffers from acute anxiety and depression and twice now, when the black moods threatened to completely overwhelm her, she attempted suicide.

Fortunately for Brenda, she sought help and her GP developed a mental health plan, which started her road to recovery. Under the plan, her GP was able to also refer Brenda to a psychologist for ten counselling sessions under Medicare.

Unfortunately, Medicare will only meet the cost for ten sessions and Brenda is only half-way through her full recovery.

In an effort to help, Brenda’s Psychologist has kindly cut the counselling fee by half, but this still leaves Brenda with around $500 to find. Very near impossible to find on a Disability Support Pension.

So Barrier Breakers has decided to launch a public appeal to create a relief fund for Brenda and others like her with similar life threatening situations.

Will you open-up your heart and help?

You can donate to our relief fund using our PayPal account on this web-page. Remember all donations of $2.00 or more are tax deductible.

Come-on, let’s give Brenda the chance to live.

Accommodation for the Mentally Ill

Barrier Breakers is urging continuing community support in its quest to establish a pilot project which will provide supported accommodation for people with mental illnesses.

The organisation’s chief executive officer, Derek Amos, told guests at the Barrier Breakers third annual charity dinner in Traralgon on Saturday night (September 7) that construction would begin soon on the six unit pilot project in Traralgon, and the organisation wanted to roll out the model in every major town in Gippsland.

Mr Amos said one of the greatest unmet needs in Gippsland was the provision of safe, affordable and supported accommodation for people with long-term mental illness.

“Since the deinstitutionalisation of mental health services and the treatment of people with a mental illness in the communities in which they live, successive governments of all political persuasions at both the state and federal levels have continually failed to provide anywhere near adequate support services to those communities to enable them to cope with the burden of mental illness,” Mr Amos told the gathering.

“Homelessness in this region has a major detrimental impact on people with chronic mental illness.”

 “Governments have saved billions of dollars by closing institutions such as the former Hobson Park Psychiatric Hospital in Traralgon, but have returned precious little to our region to care for the accommodation needs of our ill and vulnerable.”

“From a 220-bed facility, which included a 50-bed alcohol and drug detoxification and rehabilitation centre, the region of Gippsland has now less than 100 beds available in a variety of settings including units that only provide short stay accommodation of no more than two years duration.”

Mr Amos said caravan parks, boarding houses, nursing homes and couch-surfing were too often the only alternative or even worse, incarceration in prison.

“What a shocking indictment on our society to allow our sons, daughters’ family members and any other member of our communities to be condemned to such a fate,” he said.

“There is no long-term supported accommodation security provided for some of the most vulnerable people in our society – people with life-long mental illness.”

Mr Amos said throughout their lives, people with chronic mental illness would experience periods of wellness, but also periods of illness, which often would require acute psychiatric care.

Barrier Breakers scores again

“Sale’s irrepressible charity dynamo has done it again”; this statement was made by the CEO of Gippsland’s mental health advocates, Barrier Breakers, when told of yet another charity award given this week to veteran cyclist, Lance Hunt.

Mr. Hunt had been awarded $500 by his employer, SP AusNet, for devoting more than 20 hours of his free time to charity.

The company runs a program to encourage its workforce to become involved in community work and Mr. Hunt and a number of other employees of the company willingly took-up the challenge and the charities of their choice were rewarded.

Being long concerned to improve mental health services in the Gippsland region, Lance Hunt sought-out Barrier Breakers around 3 years ago and has since organised a number of fund-raising activities, including marathon bike rides throughout the region, and his efforts have raised in excess of $50,000 to date.

Barrier Breakers CEO, Derek Amos, said Lance Hunt is the dynamo that every charity dreams of.

He said all community organisations would have a fair share of “go-getters”, but people with the energy and tenacity to continually raise large amounts of money are few and far between.

“Lance is such a person”. He is a tremendous asset to have as a member of our association”; this fact has been acknowledged by our Board, which recently appointed Lance as a Director of the association”.

Mr. Hunt was responsible for the recent formation of the Wellington Chapter of Barrier Breakers and he is currently finalising arrangements for the 2013 Gippsland Marathon ride for mental health, which is scheduled to leave Sale on 8 April.

Mr. Amos said the SP AusNet donation would be directed towards the Barrier Breakers supported accommodation project with its pilot scheduled to commence operations later this year.

“This project is the first of its kind in our region”. “Its aim is to provide secure and affordable, long-term accommodation for people with chronic mental illness accompanied by both clinical support and an on-going day-care program”.

For further information – contact Derek Amos on 0428397706

Youth Mental Illness – Critical Need For Support

There is a critical need in Gippsland for a 24 hour residential and treatment facility for young people who are suffering from drug and alcohol abuse and/or induced early psychosis.

In a letter to all coalition government MP’s in Gippsland, the region’s mental health advocate, Barrier Breakers, has called for the establishment of a Youth Prevention and Recovery Care Service, known as a Y-PARC.

Y-PARC’s provide 24 hour residential, treatment and support to young people aged 16-25. They are particularly designed as an alternative to inpatient care and to assist in transitioning young people from hospital care back into their communities.

A Y-PARK was opened in Bendigo last week to serve young people in the Bendigo Loddon Mallee region at a cost of around $10 million.

Barrier Breakers CEO, Derek Amos has told Gippsland MP’s that “While not denying a need for this service in Bendigo, we submit that the underlying factors, which resulted in the government’s decision to locate the Bendigo Y-PARC, are arguably just as relevant and strong and probably more in need of redress, right here in Gippsland”.

Mr. Amos said Gippsland’s need was evidenced by the government’s extra funding for Latrobe Regional Hospital (LRH) to extend facilities for alcohol and drug effected young people who present at the hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department (A&E).

He said, “To really properly address this problem, this “first point of contact” at the A&E must be followed-up with the treatment and support that a Y-PARC can offer. This region has no other alternative residential and treatment option for our young people.”

“There is an alarming increase in alcohol and drug induced psychosis in our society.”

“More relaxed liquor licensing laws extended trading hours and a concentration of night-clubs and dance club venues have all provided easier access to party drugs and alcohol, which is seriously impacting on our young people with increasing incidents of youth Psychosis.”

“This is no more evident than in those larger towns in our region where there is a concentration of liquor outlets, which particularly target young people. For example, Traralgon has now the dubious reputation of being the “night-club capital” of Gippsland.”

“It is of little wonder why it is considered necessary to expand the LRH A&E to address the problem”,Mr. Amos concluded.”

Barrier Breakers has offered to meet the targeted MP’s, either individually in their electorate offices or collectively at Parliament House to further lobby for a Y-PARC for Gippsland.

For further information – contact Derek Amos on 0428397706

Barrier Breakers Calendars – A Huge Success

Barrier Breakers Inc, Gippsland’s mental health advocacy association was presented with a cheque for $20,000 this week to go towards their supported accommodation units for people with a mental illness.

The money was raised from the sales of a specially designed calendar/Italian recipe book combo, which was the brainchild of Sale personality and veteran cyclist, Lance Hunt.

In handing over the “big cheque”, Mr. Hunt said, “I am delighted that the fund-raising event had been so successful and will make such a meaningful contribution to the lives of some of the most disadvantaged people in our community”.

“The calendar project has also highlighted the generosity of Sale residents and the business community and their compassion for homeless people with a mental illness”.

Mr. Hunt praised the businesses, which supported the publication by page and/or half-page sponsorship. “This has meant that every dollar raised through calendar sales will go directly to the Barrier Breakers supported accommodation project”.

In accepting the cheque, Barrier Breakers CEO, Derek Amos, said the provision of fully supported accommodation for people with a mental illness was one of the region’s largest unmet needs.

He said construction of the pilot project in Traralgon would commence early this year and that following its evaluation, his association planned to roll-out similar units throughout the region with Sale high on the agenda.

Mr. Amos said Health Minister David Davis, Housing Minister Wendy Lovell and Mental Health Minister, Mary Wooldridge jointly announced state government support for the project late last year.

“Crown land in Traralgon will be leased to Barrier Breaker’s partners, Eastcoast Housing, who are providing $600,000 for the project, another partner, Mind Australia, will receive $348,000 over the next four years to provide outreach support services to the tenants and the Ministry of Housing will also provide around $450,000 towards the construction/development costs”.

Mr. Amos said the funds raised through the calendar sales will be of immense value to his association’s commitment to provide a community contribution of $150,000 towards the project.

“We owe a huge debt to Lance and his tireless team, who now make up the Wellington Chapter of Barrier Breakers”. “Well done and thank you everyone”, Mr. Amos concluded.

The newly formed Wellington Chapter will be holding a meeting at the Equus Café at 2PM on Sunday next (10 February). New members are most welcome.


For further information contact Derek Amos on 0428397706 or Lance Hunt on 0417554663

Groundswell in Sale for Mental Health

Sale and Maffra residents have responded with unprecedented support for improved mental health services in Gippsland following the launch of the Sale Chapter of Barrier Breakers in November last year.

The Gippsland-wide mental health advocacy organisation was urged to form the Chapter by Lance Hunt, a member of Barrier Breakers and well known Sale cycling personality, who had initiated the now annual Gippsland marathon bike rides for mental health.

Mr. Hunt said he has been overwhelmed by expressions of interest in the work of Barrier Breakers and requests for membership applications over the Christmas period.

During this period, Mr. Hunt and other members have been manning street stalls to sell a special calendar/Italian recipe book combo to raise funds for the Barrier Breakers supported accommodation project for people with long term mental illness.

Mr. Hunt said the most encouraging aspect of this support is that it is coming mainly from young people who have been moved to now want to contribute their talents and time to help.

“We have even been approached by teenagers who are dead keen to join Barrier Breakers and make a difference in the lives of the mentally ill”

“I have simply been blown away by such enthusiasm – in all the years that I have been involved in sporting and community events and activities, I have never experienced such spontaneous support for a social issue before”, Mr. Hunt said.

Barrier Breakers CEO, Derek Amos said his Board was delighted to receive so much support for their efforts to improve mental health services in the region and praised Lance Hunt for initiating such interest.

He said he intended to present a program of activities for the Sale Chapter to consider at its next meeting and he was looking forward to welcoming the new members and supporters.

The meeting will be held at 2.00PM on Saturday 13 January in the Equus cafe at the Wellington Entertainment centre.

For further information, contact Derek Amos on 0428397706

Barrier Breakers comes to Sale

A Sale Chapter of Barrier Breakers was established on Saturday when a group of Sale and Maffra citizens attended a luncheon meeting at the Legends Sports Club to hear from Barrier Breakers CEO, Derek Amos.

The people present agreed to take up membership of the Gippsland-wide mental health advocacy organisation and form a branch of Barrier Breakers in Sale.

Local personality and long-time supporter of Barrier Breakers, Lance Hunt was appointed interim convenor of the Chapter until a more formal structure is agreed in the New Year.

Mr. Amos told the meeting his Board was delighted to provide its many supporters in the Sale/Maffra districts with an opportunity to join in the organisations efforts to improve mental health services in the Gippsland region.

“While both federal and state governments are pursuing mental health reform agendas, much, much more needs to be done to extend essential services in vast and diverse regions like Gippsland.”

“One of the essential areas of reform is the establishment of regional Mental Health Boards to be actively involved in the planning of mental health services and local administration”.

Mr. Amos said this area of reform was particularly necessary in spread-out and remote rural settings because local people had a far better hands-on knowledge of deficiencies and needs than bureaucrats in either Melbourne or Canberra.

“Whether you live in Sale, Orbost, Cowes, Moe or Warragul and experience mental illness, either directly or as a concerned family member or carer, you have a far better understanding of the deficiencies in the system than a faceless person outside the area.”

Mr. Amos praised the generosity of the Sale and Maffra community, who have given so freely to the Barrier Breakers supported accommodation project. Six units of special long-term accommodation for people with chronic mental illness is being developed as a pilot program in Traralgon, which  Barrier Breakers is planning to roll-out in all major centres in the region.

“We congratulate our supporters in sale who have been working tirelessly to help us make up a $150,000 shortfall in the project’s costs”.

“In particular, we thank Lance Hunt for his initiative in the production of a special calendar/Italian recipe book combo, which is now selling throughout the region for $20.00 a copy”.

The calendar/cook-book combo is the brainchild of Lance, who shot the photos in regional Italy on his return from the Tour De France last year.

“This novel calendar/recipe book combo makes an ideal Christmas present as it is not only a very attractive and useful production, but all proceeds go to a local charity for a cause very much in-keeping with the spirit of Christmas”, Mr. Amos concluded.


For further information – contact Derek Amos on 0428397706