Mental health receives Govt funding boost
Youth mental health issues in the Pilbara will be tackled by a new program that will receive almost $1 million in annual funding.
WA Country Health Service will receive $900,000 to provide access for 16 to 24-year-olds to specialist mental health teams including consultant psychiatrists in two Pilbara towns.
WACHS acting operations manager John Brearley said the model was fairly early in its inception but the intention was to have three to four dedicated mental health specialists in the region across two towns which were yet to be identified.
“We will use video-conferencing technology across the region, so if the specialists have any young people they are concerned about, they can be assessed at any point in time.”
About three-quarters of all severe mental illness starts before the age of 24 and suicide accounts for almost a quarter of all deaths in the 20-24 age group.
The Government has already planned a sub-acute service in Karratha, which is expected to be operational by 2017.
Minister for Mental Health Helen Morton said the Mental Health Commission had identified a possible site for the centre and design planning and construction work would happen in 2016.
“Once a service provider is appointed to operate the service, they will be responsible for staffing arrangements to provide an appropriate mix of clinical and psychosocial supports in a residentialstyle setting,” she said. Mrs Morton said the service was expected to provide care for stays as short as 14 days up to long-term stays of 12 months, depending on patient needs.
“On this basis, if the average length of stay is 30 days, a six-bed subacute service could provide care for up to 73 people a year,” she said.
The delivery of a mental healthcare facility and youth mental health service in the Pilbara could not come sooner, with an increased demand for the region’s hospital emergency wards.
Figures obtained by shadow minister for mental health Stephen Dawson revealed how many mental health patients had been held in emergency departments while they waited for a mental health bed.
At Nickol Bay Hospital in Karratha, the number has increased from 327 in 2010-11 to 706 in 2014-15.
The Hedland Health Campus’ figures jumped from 461 to 891 in the same period while Newman Hospital’s went from 129 to 192.
Only a handful of patients in the Pilbara stayed in ED longer than 24 hours, but Mr Dawson said the rise in the figures was concerning.
“When someone is dealing with a mental health issue or illness, it is different to a broken arm or leg,” he said.
“Your anxiety levels can be higher so being in an ED ... is not where you want to be.”
The closest authorised acute care mental health facility to Karratha is the Broome Mental Health Unit.
When it doesn’t have any spare beds, patients are transported to the metro area.