Gippsland is being funded for two of the 15 Victorian mental health hubs, announced yesterday by Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

The Prime Minister confirmed the locations of 15 mental health hubs throughout Victoria as part of a $31.9 million package for the state. The 15 hubs – which are named HeadtoHelp Hubs – will receive $26.9 million of the broader funding package, with nine hubs throughout greater Melbourne and six hubs located in regional Victoria. 

The hubs will help Victorians find the right mental health service for their needs and provide onsite support for those who need it, as well as via telehealth.

The HeadtoHelp Hubs will support people in mental health distress by providing access to multidisciplinary teams of mental health workers, including psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers, and alcohol and drug workers.

They will work closely with existing providers including GPs and hospitals, referring people to more intensive mental health care or social supports if needed. 

Mr Morrison welcomed the opening of the hubs, the development of which followed concerns over rising incidents of self-harm, and a spike in the use of services like Beyond Blue, Lifeline and Kids Helpline by Victorians.

Since the Prime Minister’s initial announcement of the funding on 17 August, Victoria’s six Primary Health Networks, including Gippsland, rapidly mobilised and launched a collaborative effort to get these new mental health services operating as quickly as possible.

Gippsland PHN Chief Executive, Amanda Proposch, said it had been an extraordinary effort to have all 15 hubs opening across Victoria today.

“We know mental health issues don’t discriminate, therefore services will be accessible for all people in our community with or without a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan,” Ms Proposch said. “Many people in our community may have never experienced mental ill-health before and are facing new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These hubs will provide a welcoming place for those people alongside anyone else who needs to seek support.”

Ms Proposch said the Gippsland model for HeadtoHelp would initially see the two hubs located in Sale and Warragul. Inglis Medical Centre in Sale will operate HeadtoHelp Wellington and Central Clinic in Warragul the HeadtoHealth Baw Baw.

“Gippsland’s model will see the initial two hubs established and then satellite centres set up across the region. We want to ensure this important service will cover the breadth of our region, including our remote rural areas, so Gippsland PHN will identify the satellite locations and sites based on community need. Services will then be established using a staged approach.”

Dr Yousuf Ahmad from Inglis Medical Centre and Central Clinic Practice Manager, Mario Gupta, welcome the opportunity to establish the initial two Gippsland hubs. “This initiative will meet an increasing demand on mental health services in our region, caused by the impact of COVID-19,” they said.

Ms Proposch said the the HeadtoHelp hubs were not designed to replace other local mental health services or duplicate or fragment support. Rather, they will complement existing and newly funded mental health services under the guidance of the Victorian Mental Health Pandemic Response Taskforce.

“The hubs will initially open with foundational staffing and once fully established, will offer multidisciplinary teams of mental health workers, including psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers, and alcohol and drug workers to provide extra support during the pandemic.

“We will this work to scale up the model following consultation with local stakeholders including primary care providers, existing community and mental health providers, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, people with a lived / living experience of mental health, Emergency services (including Area Mental Health) and more. “

Anyone in Gippsland who may be struggling with the impacts of COVID-19 on their lives to find the right mental health support can ring 1800 595 212 or go to the HeadtoHelp website at www.headtohelp.org.au