Tender announced for altered mental health care service

UNITINGCARE and Mental Illness Fellowship (MIF) have been awarded the tender to provide mental health services for Ballarat and the surrounding region.

Changes: Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge, is joined by Liberal candidate for Wendouree Craig Coltman and Wimmera UnitingCare CEO Barrie Elvish.as she announces that UnitingCare and Mental Illness Fellowship will take over Ballarat’s mental health services. PICTURE: Dylan Burns

Changes: Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge, is joined by Liberal candidate for Wendouree Craig Coltman and Wimmera UnitingCare CEO Barrie Elvish.as she announces that UnitingCare and Mental Illness Fellowship will take over Ballarat’s mental health services. PICTURE: Dylan Burns

Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge made the announcement on Wednesday, a week before the new community mental health reforms come into effect on August 1. 

Earlier this year, a number of Ballarat community service agencies learned their state government funding for mental health care programs would cease. 

Some of the mental health programs have been operating in Ballarat for almost two decades. Ms Wooldridge said the reforms would make it easier for those with a mental illness to access the system. 

“There will be a single entry into the mental health services,” Ms Wooldridge said. 

“An assessment will be done to reflect the full range of needs of the person with a mental illness and then a referral to counselling support and other services offered by UnitingCare agencies.” 

UnitingCare Ballarat executive director Cliff Barclay said people wishing to access the system would need to call a hotline offered by the Australian Community Services Organisation. 

He said people were then referred to Wimmera or Ballarat UnitingCare or MIF. 

Mr Barclay said the reform had a strong focus on individual cases, as opposed to group-based programs. 

“There will be some programs that are group programs, but most will have an individual focus,” he said. 

As a result of the reforms, staff at outgoing mental health service providers have lost their jobs. 

Ballarat Community Health chief executive Robyn Reeves said nine staff employed under the Adult Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program of the Central Highlands would no longer have their jobs as of July 31. 

“We are very sad to see valued, long-term staff leaving the service system, some of whom have been working in mental health for up to 30 years,” Ms Reeves said. 

“We certainly hope that the reform process does deliver really effective services that will give the required support to people experiencing mental health problems.”

Mr Barclay said he admired the services offered by existing mental health care programs and said it was devastating to see them go.

kara.irving@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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