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    Les Power has been nominated for a Regional Development Victoria Leadership and Innovation Award. He is also organising a memorial ride for former collegue Heath Martin.

Campaign ride to honour Heath Martin


A Horsham municipal councillor and police officer who regularly sees the impact of mental illness first-hand is planning a bicycle ride across the region to raise awareness of a need for a 24-hour crisis centre.

Cr Les Power, also a Leading Senior Constable, will dedicate the community ride to police colleague the late Heath Martin, who suffered from mental illness and died earlier this year.

He is still working on finer details surrounding the event but hopes it can happen later this year, perhaps to help the region emerge from tight COVID-19 restrictions.

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Cr Power said a go-ahead timeline would depend on circumstances involving the virus pandemic. But he was confident that being home-grown and based on a pressing ongoing need, the event would have timing flexibility without losing any of its appeal.

News of Cr Power’s plans comes amid uncertainty about how state and federal government boosts to mental-health services will change circumstances in the Wimmera-Mallee.

The State Government will invest $59.7-million to support mental-health services, including strengthening the surge capacity of clinical and community providers to reduce pressure on hospital emergency departments.

The move will also fast-track plans for more public acute mental-health beds based on a Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental-health system and accelerate a roll-out of a Hospital Outreach Post-Suicidal Engagement, HOPE, program.

The Federal Government, meanwhile, is providing an additional $12-million to help Victorians access 24-hour, seven-days-a-week support through digital and telephone counselling services.

Open to community

Cr Power founded Blue Ribbon Foundation’s Horsham branch, which raises money for health services while acknowledging police officers who have died in the line of duty.

He said his idea for a two-day community ride involved him saddling up for two 250-kilometre legs based on the area Mr Martin had responsibility for as a member of Victoria Police’s Highway Patrol.

“I’m thinking the ride might have legs from Edenhope to St Arnaud and from Hopetoun through to Ararat-Lake Bolac, avoiding heavy-traffic areas such as the Western Highway.We can do some tin-rattling along the way,” he said.

Cr Power said he envisaged the ride being open to the community ‘to jump in and provide support where they could’ and to act as a support or replacement event for the Great Victorian Bike Ride, tentatively scheduled for the region in late November.

“While it is about raising awareness about the need for greater mental-health support services, we might also be able to use it to start raising money for the Horsham crisis centre the community has been talking about for the past 12 months,” he said.

“While we have the free Rural Outreach program, which fills an important role, we have fallen well short of having what is really required to meet this serious health issue. 

“This was happening long before COVID-19 and we can only hope that what the State Government has announced will go some way to addressing the shortfall.

“We can’t afford to have people struggling to get critical help they might immediately need, which can happen at the moment. 

“We need something that is dedicated to meeting this issue that operates 24 hours a day and is resourced and right here in the Wimmera.”

“We have services that help in normal business hours but things can really turn pear-shaped out of hours and this needs to be addressed,” Cr Power said.

In April last year, advocacy group Healthy Minds Horsham and regional Rotary clubs joined forces in a call for a 24-hour mental-health crisis centre in the Wimmera. The group had been working with Wimmera Health Care Group on a plan before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

• If you or someone you know needs help, you can call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue, 1800 512 348, or Kids Helpline, 1800 55 1800.

The entire August 12, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!