Youth mental health initiative Headspace is to get a foothold in Bega.
An announcement on a new model of Headspace service for the Far South Coast was made on Wednesday afternoon to an excited room of health providers and councillors who took a break from their meeting to attend.
The federal government had promised funding for 10 new Headspace Centres across the country, which provide early intervention mental health services to 12-25-year-olds.
As the BDN reported in late May, local mental health providers had fingers crossed their application for funding to have one of the centres located in Bega would be successful.
It seems their wishes have been granted, with Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt making it official via video link to the gathering at the Bega Commemorative Civic Centre, after Senator Arthur Sinodinos was unable to attend in person as originally planned.
Mr Hunt said $550,000 was being provided to help establish the service in the Bega Valley and then a further $1million a year for four years of operation.
“But this is not about money,” Mr Hunt said. “It’s the fact that Headspace is a safe space and a trusted space for young people.
“It’s a brand that people believe in and young people feel safe...Headspace is the best of all possible spaces for giving young people that opportunity [to access critical services].”
Exactly how the service will be provided and accessed, and how it might integrate, or otherwise, with existing services in Bega and the shire, remains in question.
South-East Primary Health Network CEO Dianne Kitcher said, given the Far South Coast’s regional aspect, the Headspace service will be a new model, purpose-built with input from the community.
She said the provision of support will be less a centre and more a “hub and spoke” model providing outreach throughout the Bega Valley.
“This is fantastic news,” Ms Kitcher said on Wednesday.
“The fact it’s now more flexible and we can work closely with the community to develop a purpose-built service for this community.”
Headspace offers early intervention for 12-to-25-year-olds in four key areas – mental health, related physical health, social and vocational support, and alcohol and other drug use.
A planning phase will now begin before tenders for a service provider are called later this year. Headspace services are expected to be available within 12 months.
Investment in country’s future
Bega GP Duncan Mackinnon attended the announcement on Wednesday, saying it was a great addition to existing services.
“Any resource put towards our young people’s mental health is a bonus,” Dr Mackinnon said.
“It’s an investment in our country’s future. It’s a win-win.”
He said issues of mental health crises and suicide were not unique to Bega, or indeed the Bega Valley, but all support was critical.
Dr Mackinnon and Bega Valley Medical Practice colleague Meghan Campbell recently presented their own successful model of care for teenagers to federal parliamentarians.
The practice’s Teen Clinic is a nurse led program that allows young people to drop into the clinic two afternoons a week and discuss areas of concern in a non-judgmental environment. Breaking down any perceived barriers to young people accessing help, it’s not labelled a sexual health clinic, or mental health clinic – but help with those issues is available
Dr MacKinnon said on Wednesday, the key question is how Headspace in Bega would dovetail into services already being provided and to make sure it was accessible to anyone in the Valley