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New mental health service for vulnerable children

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Children of parents with severe mental illness, those living in remote areas, young people who self-harm, and those of diverse backgrounds are all set to benefit from a new mental health service to be offered in the region. 

Located at Beam Health in Warners Bay, the service known as Little Sparks is open to youngsters aged 12 to 15. 

The brainchild of Hunter, New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network (The PHN), it is aimed at increasing access to mental health services for vulnerable children.  

Up to 12 face-to-face sessions of psychological counselling will be provided, with priority given to population groups who have difficulty in accessing mental health treatment in the primary care sector.  

This includes people under financial hardship and less able to pay fees to access private mental health services, those unable to access Medicare subsidised mental health services, children who have parents with a severe mental illness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people of cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds, individuals who have self- harmed, attempted suicide or who have suicidal ideation, and can be appropriately managed in the primary health care setting, and children living in rural and remote areas.  

The team at Warner’s Bay Head to Health, Warners Bay. Photo: Peter Stoop

The PHN CEO Richard Nankervis said the service would mean children who needed to access mental health services would find it easier to do so.  

“Our annual needs assessment identified a gap within mental health services, particularly for children in priority groups,” he explained.  

“The PHN has responded through the commissioning of this new service which complements our existing range, including headspace and Head to Health among many others.”  

The PHN manager of mental health and suicide prevention Leah Morgan said the service was committed to offering access to services by removing barriers.  

“There are many vulnerable groups within our community who are not receiving mental health support due to barriers including cost and availability. These services will be bulk billed to overcome financial barriers and will prioritise vulnerable patients to ensure they receive the treatment they need,” she added.

“In addition to this new service, GPs are still able to access the GP psychiatry support line for advice on the management of their patients.”  

Those using the initiative, piloted until 30 June next year, won’t be out of pocket either.

The funding has been provided utilising flood recovery money from the NSW Government. 

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