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New mental health services to support the Hunter

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Cost and availability are being blamed for hampering access to mental health services among the region’s most vulnerable.

In a recently conducted Needs Assessment survey, the Hunter, New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network identified an increasing need for such barriers to be addressed for improved access.

As a result, the group has commissioned two new mental health services.

The PHN manager of mental health and suicide prevention Leah Morgan said they were working to improve 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,” she said.

“These services will be bulk billed to overcome financial barriers and will prioritise vulnerable patients to ensure they receive the treatment they need.”

The first service is for children up to the age of 12.

Provided by Uniting NSW/ACT and Beam Health, the service is targeted at priority population groups who have difficulty in accessing mental health treatment in the primary care sector.

This includes people who are under financial hardship and less able to pay fees to access private mental health services, and those unable to access Medicare subsidised mental health services.

Children who have parents with a severe mental illness will also be prioritised.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those of diverse cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and individuals who have self- harmed, attempted suicide or who have suicidal ideation, will also be appropriately managed in the primary health care setting.

Children living in rural and remote areas will remain a focus.

The second service, a telehealth psychiatry service, is targeted at priority population groups including women with perinatal depression, First Nations people, people living in rural and remote areas, people on low income, people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and people with a recent suicide attempt or suicidal behaviour/ideation.

Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network (The PHN) CEO Richard Nankervis said the services would mean that people who needed to access mental health services would find it easier to do so.

“The PHN has commissioned Call to Mind to provide the telehealth psychiatry service across the HNECC region.

“The aim is to increase access to psychiatry services for people with severe and persistent mental illness who have barriers to accessing a psychiatrist.”

The telehealth service is available to people that reside or work within the HNECC PHN catchment and are aged 16 years and over.

The new services will be available from July until 30 June 2023 and there will be no out of pocket expenses for the patient.

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

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