The Liberal and Nationals Government is boosting mental health support in nine drought-affected communities, with Deputy Leader of the Nationals and Minister for Regional Services (Health and Communications) Senator Bridget McKenzie and Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton announcing a Trusted Advocates Network Trial will roll out in Coonabarabran.
“I’m delighted to be in regional New South Wales today and announce that nine communities in our drought affected areas in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria will be locations for a Trusted Advocate Trial, where we enable the local Primary Health Network (PHN) to reach out into the community and help those who are struggling with the impact of drought,” Minister McKenzie said.
“This trial comes on the back of recommendations from Major General Stephen Day who we appointed Drought Coordinator last year, in recognition of just how damaging and widespread the current drought has been.
“As a result of these roundtable consultations with regional communities, the Government will provide $463,815 over three years in nine locations for additional informal mental health support and referral pathways.
“Local MP Mark Coulton has also championed the concept of using people in our communities who have leadership capabilities and day-to-day contact to engage with those who are struggling.
“This trial gives our grassroots champions support to reach out and help those who need it most. Country people are strong, but their strength is being tested and the Government will do what it can to provide the right support in the right place, at the right time.”
Member for Parkes Mark Coulton welcomed the announcement in his electorate, much of which has battled with drought for years.
“I am very pleased to see more on-the-ground mental health support being delivered in my electorate, and I know this trial will be most welcome in Coonabarabran,” Mr Coulton said.
“Having Trusted Advocates on hand to provide support will be very beneficial. These are known members of the community and I have no doubt they will play an important role.”
As part of the initiative, up to 10 people per trial community will be identified and given basic training to learn the skills of mental first aid to assist them in their role.
CEO of the Western NSW PHN Andrew Harvey welcomed the announcement by the Liberal and Nationals Government.
“It’s really important to build capacity and support communities going through enormous stress during the drought,” Mr Harvey said.
“We need to continue to provide local solutions for local problems. We need people to be there for other people who are doing it tough, and we acknowledge the Government’s support for these communities that need some extra help.”
The trusted community members will also receive training to identify risk factors as well as the ability to provide information on mental health services. The role itself is unpaid.
The Trusted Advocates Network is in addition to the Government’s Empowering our Communities initiative worth $24.4 million over two years from 2018-19, to fund community-led mental health, social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention initiatives.
The nine trial locations are Longreach and Goondiwindi in QLD; Scone, Cooma, Coonabarabran, Portland and Narrandera in NSW; Tailem Bend in South Australia and Sale in Victoria.