Mental health service surviving despite dwindling funds
THE closure of a mental health service outreach program in a Somerset town has been forestalled, despite its funding running out last year.
Headspace is a non-profit organisation which provides mental health and help services to young people aged 12 to 25 and has been delivering an outreach program from the Kilcoy Hospital for several years.
Funding for the program ran out in December 2019 with many fearing that would mark the end of the service.
Program staffers have however managed to negotiate financing which will allow it to remain in Kilcoy, much to the relief of the community.
Headspace Kilcoy will be funded on a month-by-month basis through the Brisbane North PHN until an alternative funding arrangement can be secured.
Somerset Councillor and Kilcoy Interagency Meeting member Cheryl Gaedtke has been particularly vocal in fighting for the program’s continuation.
“It’s a very needed service, and one we really don’t want to lose,” she said.
“And that’s quite widespread. It’s not just for Kilcoy, but for other areas as well.”
When it was first launched, the program was allocated enough funds for a year. The arrangement was then extended for a further 12 months in the wake of strong support from the community.
However, in 2019 the program was forced to make do with leftover funding pieced together from other programs and service operators were told they would have to become self-sufficient before funding expired in December.
To become self-sufficient, the group would have needed to contract a registered psychologist or social worker to regularly travel to Kilcoy, and bulk bill young people through Medicare for mental health care plans.
Kilcoy’s location has made finding a mental health professional willing to operate there on a full-time basis difficult.
During a September council meeting Cr Gaedtke raised the issue with her fellow councillors, who unanimously voted to write to Minister for Health Gregory Hunt to emphasise the continued need for the essential service.
“We had a suicide here not so long ago, so it really enforces the importance of these services,” Cr Gaedtke said.
Cr Gaedtke said social issues were becoming more prevalent and local councils had an important part to play in addressing them.
“I feel that this is where local government will be pushed towards, we need to maintain these services and keep that collaboration in progress,” she said.