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Boost for rural health program

The State Government will provide an additional $400,000 for a Rural Outreach Program to support mental health.

Edenhope and District Memorial Hospital, now part of Grampians Health, runs the program and Wimmera Primary Care Partnership, facing uncertainty in 2022, co-ordinates the service.

Labor Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said the Rural Outreach Program increased the capacity of  Wimmera and southern Mallee services to support people struggling with psychological distress. 

She said the service reduced the barriers rural and regional communities faced when accessing mental-health support – often having to travel long distances or wait months for appointments.

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Ms Pulford confirmed the additional funding would support the program for a further 12 months.

“Eight percent of visits by the outreach team required more than three hours of travel to provide support, so the program’s telehealth option has also been vital in responding to the mental-health needs of people living in remote areas during the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.

Ms Pulford said since the program started in 2018, it had provided more than 1000 hours of mental-health support to people.

She added The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System outlined the importance of providing additional resources to regional Victorian mental health and wellbeing services.

“We know that travelling long distances is too often a barrier for country Victorians in accessing quality mental-health support – and we’re proud to be investing to support communities in the Wimmera and southern Mallee when they need it most,” she said.

“The Wimmera’s outreach team provides world-class support across the region – lending an ear, providing support, guidance and referral to other mental- health treatment, and I know how important it is to make sure these communities get the care they need.”

Member for Lowan Emma Kealy said she hoped the money found its way to the right destination considering the changes to health provision in the region.

“The outreach program is critically important and the two organisations listed as running it are earmarked for dramatic change,” she said.

“There is always a risk when centralising services that money designated for a regional area or project will be eroded away or watered down by process.”

The entire November 10, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!