Extra funding for mental health will flow to the Upper Murray after Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines secured a commitment from the Health Minister to support ongoing mental health services in the region.
Corryong Health will receive $100,000 a year for the next three years from the Federal Government on top of the $500,000 mental health package that was committed at the height of the Black Summer bushfires.
It is expected that the Victorian State Government will match the ongoing funding from the Federal Government, resulting in more than $1 million in mental health funding for people in towns like Corryong and Walwa.
Dr Haines said the delivery of this funding was the result of consistent advocacy and work in partnership with the community and Corryong Health.
“Addressing mental health issues is not a quick fix. We need sustainable services targeted to the needs of the Upper Murray, and that’s what I advocated for across many meetings with Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt,” Dr Haines said.
“This funding will go towards employing full-time mental health professionals to respond to primary mental health, drug and alcohol needs, ongoing trauma recovery, implementing the Upper Murray Suicide Postvention and Prevention Plans and a primary mental health psychological therapy service and clinical care coordination.”
Chief Executive Officer of Corryong Health Dominic Sandilands welcomed the news.
“I’m delighted to be informed of this funding from the Federal Government. The impact of trauma is long-lasting and this reflects the ongoing need for mental health services following the bushfires in Corryong and the Upper Murray,” he said.
At a recent Senate committee hearing into bushfire response and recovery, Mr Sandilands said he was concerned about the lack of ongoing funding.
“We’ve had some commitments, but we’ve had long delays in getting those commitments realised,” Mr Sandilands said at the hearing.
“We’ve had multiple short-term contracts, which makes it very hard to be able to continuously employ and recruit with confidence, and it is already difficult to recruit skilled professionals in rural areas.”
Dr Haines said this funding would address the issues raised by Mr Sandilands and make it easier to attract and retain skilled professionals needed in the community.
“I talked to the Health Minister about the need for ongoing funding at every chance I had. I sought meetings, wrote letters, sent text messages. A lot of work went on behind the scenes to make sure Mr Hunt’s promise on this funding was fulfilled,” Dr Haines said.
“It was an uphill battle just to get the Government to deliver on the first promise made in the aftermath of the bushfires, but I didn’t give up until the money was in the bank. And on this promise I did the same. As an Independent MP I have been like a dog with a bone, making sure the Government delivers for the Upper Murray.”