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State Government Support for Barrier Breakers Project

The development of specially designed units of supportive accommodation in Traralgon for people with a mental illness moved a step closer this week with a public announcement of the state government’s decision to fund a vital component of the project.

Mental Health Minister, Mary Wooldridge announced the government will fund MIND, a partner of Barrier Breakers in the project, $348,000 over the next four years to provide outreach support to the proposed tenants of the units.

“It will be an important service for people who are referred from Latrobe Regional Hospital.”

In a letter to Barrier Breakers, Ms Wooldridge acknowledged the active role played by the organisation in advocating for the provision of supported accommodation for people with a mental illness.

She said she appreciated the time and effort Barrier Breakers had taken to advocate on behalf of people with a mental illness.

Barrier Breakers has partnered Eastcoast Housing Association (Eastcoast), MIND Australia (MIND) and Latrobe Regional Hospital Mental Health Services (LRH) to source funding for the project and to ensure the provision of clinical and outreach services for the tenants.

Derek Amos, CEO of Barrier Breakers said that Eastcoast had committed $600,00 to the capital cost of building the six units that are proposed and that it expected to raise a further $150,000 for the project through its public appeal.

Mr. Amos said LRH had relinquished the lease on crown land that it held in Traralgon to allow Eastcoast to lease the site for the project. He also said that subject to this lease being granted, the Department of Housing had committed a further $450,000 towards the capital cost of the project.

“Thanks to a very generous public response to our appeal, we are well on track to raise the $150,000 contribution we are committed to.”

“Our charity dinner last year raised in excess of $30,000 and other events in the past year had almost matched that effort.”

This Friday we are hosting the second of our charity dinners and we hope to better last year’s effort”.

Mr. Amos said while the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, everyone involved in the project was hopeful the other arms of government would expedite the process of the lease application to enable a speedy commencement of the project.

MISSING IN ACTION

Gippsland’s mentally ill have missed out once again, according to Barrier Breakers, the region’s mental health advocacy group.

In commenting on an ABC 4 Corners program that exposed Victoria’s failure to spend millions of dollars of federal government monies earmarked for supported accommodation for the mentally ill, Barrier Breakers Chairman, Mr. Gordon Arthur, a Traralgon based surgeon, has blasted the state government for ignoring the plight of Gippsland’s mentally ill.

Last year, the federal government allocated $100 million to the states to provide supported accommodation for the mentally ill. Victoria’s share was around $25 million to provide 70 new accommodation places. But despite an accommodation crisis in this state, the state government has spent none of it. By contrast, NSW has already built 17 new units.

Mr. Arthur said he was stunned by the 4 Corners revelation.

“How can there be such a callous disregard for the plight of so many people, he asked. We are talking here of some of the most disadvantaged people in our society.”

Mr. Arthur said that Gippsland is in desperate need of additional supported accommodation places for the mentally ill.

“Gippsland has more than a 100 fewer beds for people with a mental illness than the region had in the decade 1966-76 – a 62% reduction in beds and a 40% increase in population.”

“There are less than 50 supported accommodation units in the whole region that are specifically reserved for people with a mental illness despite the fact that 1 in 5 people in our community are sufferers.”

“Nor is there any mental health specific supported accommodation for indigenous peoples in the Gippsland and yet they have special needs to be addressed, which continue to be ignored.”

Mr. Arthur said Barrier Breakers supported the call of the Mental Health Council of Australia (MHCA), who this week called on the federal government to take over responsibility of actually providing community-based beds.

The CEO of MHCA, David Crosbie, said this week that the states appeared to not “have the resources or the capacity to provide the number of community-based beds we need in this country.”

“Families and their carers are at crisis point. Their plight demands that governments’ take immediate action to sort out this unholy mess”, Mr. Arthur concluded.

For further information – contact Gordon Arthur on 51741878 0r Derek Amos on 51527711

Over 900,000 Australians now have mental health plans

A recent report has found Australians are accessing mental health care at unprecedented levels with the cost of the new Medicare Items for mental health services now three times higher than the initial federal government budget estimate.

This was revealed today by Derek Amos, the CEO of Barrier Breakers Inc, a Gippsland based mental health advocacy organisation.  Mr. Amos said the Report on the Mental Health and the New Medicare Services was released recently by the Mental Health Council of Australia and it reveals stark evidence of the need for urgent government action to improve mental health care in Australia.

The Report reveals that since the introduction of thew Medicare Items for mental health services:

  • Demand for mental health services continues to increase with over 5 million Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) payments being made since November 2006.
  • GPs have received over $215 million in payments for mental health consultations and psychologists have received over $250 million since November 2006 with the highest levels of payments occurring in recent months
  • Over 900,000 Australians now have mental health plans prepared by the GP
  • alcohol interlock device Women are twice as likely as men to get care under the new MBS services
  • People living in rural Australia have less access to the new MBS services, indicating a lack of appropriate health professionals and mental health specialists in rural Australia
  • Young people, and particularly young men, are underrepresented in the new services despite their high level of need
  • Out of pocket expenses are higher for services where the Medicare rebate is less than the scheduled fee – this includes psychological and psychiatric services
  • Although the previous government increased budget funding for the new measures to 753m for the period 200611, this increase falls way short of current levels of demand.

Mr. Amos said, ”it was just simply appalling that in this modern computer age, so little is known about the million people using the Better Access Programs, their conditions, their treatment and the degree to which the new mental health services are helping people and their families”.

I urge our Gippsland federal MP’s to press for an urgent evaluation of this report and to support measures to address these issues in the forthcoming federal Budget”, Mr Amos concluded.

YOUTH MENTAL ILLNESS IGNORED

Barrier Breakers, Gippsland’s advocates for mental health is incensed that the region has missed out on new federal funding for new Headspace centres to support adolescents battling mental illness.

CEO of barrier Breakers, Derek Amos, said despite the Gillard government committing 197 million in the May Budget to develop 15 new such units around Australia, including 4 in Victoria, Gippsland was completely overlooked.

Mr. Amos said that it was astounding that the region had not rated a mention – “It’s almost as if we didn’t exist”. He said there are no youth specific acute services in the entire region. Consequently young people are being sent to the Monash Medical Centre or the facility at Box Hill. “This is totally unacceptable for families who live in the region, let alone those in far East Gippsland”.

Mr. Amos said there were only 2 acute care beds for adolescents suffering psychotic episodes in the entire region – an area of 44,000 square miles and with a population in excess of a quarter of a million people.

He said that other than these beds being grossly deficient for the needs of young people, they were also most inappropriately placed in the Flynn ward setting of Latrobe Regional Hospital with adult acute care patients. “Parents have complained to Barrier Breakers that they are too scared to leave their children in the Flynn ward, which was primarily designed and staffed for adults”.

“Many of these parents are opting to stay with their children in the Flynn ward”.

“Both the state and federal governments claim that mental illness is the single biggest issue facing young Australians with one in four adolescents experiencing a mental disorder in any given year”.

“Given the vastness of Gippsland and the singular lack of appropriate facilities for young people who become unwell, governments have completely failed in their duty of care as this region urgently demands recognition of adolescent needs”.
Mr. Amos said an additional 35 locations for the new centres would be announced over the next 4 years and that Barrier Breakers is calling upon both the state and federal governments to immediately recognise the plight of young people in the Gippsland region by bringing forward funding arrangements to meet Gippsland’s needs now.
Barrier Breakers, Gippsland’s advocates for mental health is incensed that the region has missed out on new federal funding for new Headspace centres to support adolescents battling mental illness. Mr. Amos said despite the Gillard government committing 197 million in the May Budget to develop 15 new such units around Australia, including 4 in Victoria, Gippsland was completely overlooked.
Mr. Amos said that it was astounding that the region had not rated a mention – “It’s almost as if we didn’t exist”. He said there are no youth specific acute services in the entire region. Consequently young people are being sent to the Monash Medical Centre or the facility at Box Hill.
“This is totally unacceptable for families who live in the region, let alone those in far East Gippsland”.
Mr. Amos said there were only 2 acute care beds for adolescents suffering psychotic episodes in the entire region – an area of 44,000 square miles and with a population in excess of a quarter of a million people. He said that other than these beds being grossly deficient for the needs of young people, they were also most inappropriately placed in the Flynn ward setting of Latrobe Regional Hospital with adult acute care patients. “Parents have complained to Barrier Breakers that they are too scared to leave their children in the Flynn ward, which was primarily designed and staffed for adults”.
“Many of these parents are opting to stay with their children in the Flynn ward”.
“Both the state and federal governments claim that mental illness is the single biggest issue facing young Australians with one in four adolescents experiencing a mental disorder in any given year”.

“Given the vastness of Gippsland and the singular lack of appropriate facilities for young people who become unwell, governments have completely failed in their duty of care as this region urgently demands recognition of adolescent needs”.
Mr. Amos said an additional 35 locations for the new centres would be announced over the next 4 years and that Barrier Breakers is calling upon both the state and federal governments to immediately recognise the plight of young people in the Gippsland region by bringing forward funding arrangements to meet Gippsland’s needs now.