Minister for Health Yvette D’Ath said the National Cabinet has endorsed a National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan. Photo/Annette Dew
Minister for Health Yvette D’Ath said the National Cabinet has endorsed a National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan. Photo/Annette Dew

Premier‘s office avoids Burnett mental health questions

THREE opportunities to answer whether or not the Queensland Government would consider funding or building a Headspace or like mental health facility in the Burnett have failed to yield any response from the Premier‘s office.

The Queensland Government is investing in a new acute mental health inpatient unit at the Hervey Bay Hospital and the refurbishment of the existing acute mental health unit at Maryborough Hospital, however the new Kingaroy Hospital will only include four treatment spaces for assessing mental health patients, increased security staff and a secure-access rooms staff can use as a safe room if needed.

Minister for Health Yvette D’Ath said the National Cabinet has endorsed a National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan in May and all levels of government continue to work together.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic is taking its toll on people’s mental health around the world and Queensland and Australia are no exception,” Minister D’Ath said.

“Here in Queensland, as the Premier has said, we are providing the support so Queenslanders can make it through this.

“Queensland’s Economic Strategy contains additional $46.5 million for localised mental health community treatment and support services.

“These extra community-based services will be directed to areas where we are seeing greater demand – where local economies dependent on construction, tourism and related service industries have been most impacted.”

They will include:

A new online therapy program for young people

Grants to 45 rural councils for localised rural mental health initiatives

Extra capacity in existing NGO alcohol and other drugs rehabilitation services

Boosting specialist mental health support for people in quarantine

Expanding existing mental health co-responder services to the Sunshine Coast and also increasing shifts to 24 hours.

Burnett residents continue to fight an uphill battle with a lack of access to mental health services and mental health professionals operating on a full-time basis in the region.

The region is living through a mental health crisis with a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare identifying the Burnett as Queensland’s suicide epicentre.

According to the report, 67 lives were tragically lost to suicide between 2015-2019, earmarking the Burnett as having the highest suicide rate per capita in the state.

Minister D’Ath said since coming to government, they have increased funding for mental health programs by well over $200 million.

“This includes reopening a specialist residential facility for young people after the Newman LNP Government shutdown the Barrett Adolescent Centre,” she said.

“The new 12-bed Jacaranda Place will see upwards of 40 young people aged up to 21 each year across both residential care and non-residential day programs.”

In terms of local hospital services the Darling Downs Health run Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drug Service (MHAODS) at the Kingaroy Hospital and Cherbourg Hospital.

A Darling Downs Health spokesperson said through this service, they provide short-term and long-term case management to help patients with acute and complex care needs to manage their mental health.

“This is supported by outreach services including consultant psychiatrist and medical officers from Toowoomba, who provide regular on-site or telehealth clinics for patients,” the spokesperson said.

“We also run several programs within the South Burnett region, including mental health first aid, suicide awareness and drug and alcohol programs.”

In Queensland, Connecting care to recovery 2016-2021: A plan for Queensland’s State-funded mental health, alcohol and other drug services guides the investment of an additional $350 million over five years for a range of priorities to enhance mental health and alcohol and other drug services.

This includes investment directed towards developing a range of service models across the care continuum with an emphasis on mental health care and treatment available in the community.

In the 2019-20 Queensland State Budget, $61.9 million was allocated to reduce suicide across the state.

This funding is the major element of a broader package of State Government Budget Initiatives towards the first phase of implementation of ‘Shifting Minds’, the five-year Queensland Mental Health Alcohol and Other Drug Strategic Plan 2018-2023.

As part of the Shifting Minds package, the Queensland Government has allocated $28.1 million over four years for additional community mental health support services delivered by non-government organisations.

Infrastructure investment in 2019-20 included $27.9 million to complete a new Adolescent Extended Treatment Centre at The Prince Charles Hospital, two new youth Step Up Step Down units in Logan and Caboolture, and the refurbishment of two adolescent Day Program Spaces at Logan and the Gold Coast.

A Queensland Health spokesperson said Queenslanders have access to a broad range of world-class mental health services and service providers both in the community and through our health services.

“Our specialised community mental health services, delivered by clinicians throughout Hospital and Health Services, provide more than 1.7 million service contacts to approximately 90,000 people annually,” the spokesperson said.

“Any loss of life by suicide is a tragedy, and one that has a significant impact on friends, families and the community.

“This is why the Queensland Government has identified reducing the rate of suicide as one of 13 objectives for the community identified in Our Future State: Advancing Queensland’s Priorities.”

Help is available over the phone through Lifeline (13 11 14), the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467), Headspace (1800 650 890) or Kids Helpline (1800 551 800).

For a full list of local services click here.

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