Mental health care in crisis in rural communities: report
A Kalgoorlie-Boulder clinical psychologist is concerned community members are not receiving adequate mental health treatment from fly-in, fly-out psychologists used to fill a serious shortage of registered mental health practitioners.
It comes as a Senate committee has called for a mental health strategy that targets the “myriad of barriers” to accessing quality mental health services in rural and remote communities.
The inquiry into mental health accessibility and quality in rural and remote Australia handed down its report yesterday. It pointed to issues around FIFO mental health services used to address the lack of mental health services and professionals available in rural and remote areas.
The inquiry found communities were often not receptive towards FIFO workers as they only visited for short periods and had not built relationships in the community.
Local clinical psychologist Christina Petz said there was a significant shortage of psychologists in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, forcing clients to sit on lengthy waiting lists or to receive services from people not trained in psychology.
She said she was aware some or- ganisations in town used FIFO psychologists, which raised concerns around continuity of care.
“If you’re got a frequently changing practitioner, clients have to tell their story over and over, and they don’t get to build that trusting relationship,” she said.
“The FIFO model isn’t suited to psychology because you need a weekly meeting, at least initially, to gain momentum and make progress. It’s not enough to see someone once a month.”
Full Circle Therapies manager Keren Franklin said the not-forprofit group would prefer to use a local psychologist but had to rely on a FIFO psychologist instead due to lack of availability. “We do have psychologists in Kalgoorlie but they’re all fully booked,” she said.
“The biggest issue is cost — with the state of our airfares, as a nonprofit, we’re not able to bring someone in as often as we’d like.
“We have someone once a term for a few days, and they can see eight clients in a day.
“We have tried to keep continuity of care as much as possible, but of course we would like to be able to use someone local.”
She said there was constant demand for the psychologist, who provided mental health services to children and families living with autism.