Mindful Margaret River says ‘telehealth is not the solution’ in mental health needs for Augusta-Margaret River

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Warren Hately – Augusta Margaret River Times

Fri, 10 May 2024 3:01AM

Mindful Margaret River says the State Government is wrong to claim it has addressed the findings of a high-level report into child and adolescent health services for outlying communities in the South West.

Chief executive Erin Statz told the Times claims Mental Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson — in opening the new $7.1 million hub in Bunbury last month — failed to consider early intervention and education services in communities outside of the major centre.

The not-for-profit group – formed after the Department of Communities closed its office in town – already voiced concerns too many residents would be forced to travel to access those expanded services in Busselton and Bunbury.

Shire president Julia Meldrum backed those complaints, and directly requested Premier Roger Cook fund a community-based worker for the shire to plug the perceived gap.

While the new hub addressed some of the recommendations of the Ministerial Taskforce into Public Mental Health Services for Infants, Children and Adolescents aged zero-to-18 years in WA, Ms Statz said the report also found “telehealth is not the solution”.

“Their own report identified infrastructure is not appropriate for children, families and carers, and information and digital technology does not adequately support the information and care needs of children, families, carers and clinicians,” she said.

“Primary health and other services do not have the capacity to meet the needs of children in the community.”

The report advocated for more services in schools amid what Ms Statz said was a dire lack of early support services, with headspace only catering to teens aged older than 12 with serious needs.

Ms Sanderson said the new hub was one of the taskforce’s key recommendations with the service developed in consultation with people with lived experience, clinicians, and the local community.

A spokesperson for the Minister said the State Government had committed $201 million over four years to increase mental health support services in the State.

“The development of Community ICAMHS was a key recommendation (of the Ministerial Taskforce),” they said.

However, Ms Statz said that taskforce report found telehealth services weren’t adequate for clients in outlying communities.

“Funding is primarily going into the crisis and acute services and not into prevention or community services,” she said.

“None of this funding will go into the community mental health, early intervention or address the drivers of poor mental health (such as) housing, education, access to health services.”

Groups like MMR were hoping a review of WA’s Mental Health Commission plans would help balance out the State’s approach to mental health in regional WA.

“The Commission has provided short-term funding for MMR as a locally established community early intervention and prevention service, and it would be cost effective and support local needs to provide recurrent funding,” Ms Statz said.

“Indeed, the local provision of these types of community health services is best practice.

“The current funding models mean that services that are funded to reach our community often stop at Bunbury or Busselton and require our community members in crisis to find the time, transport, and funds to access services outside our area.”

The Minister’s office said the South West hub operated “an innovative model of care that provides a central point of contact for all children and young people needing mental health support in the region”.

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