New service to improve mental health in aged care

May 13, 2021 BY

Hesse Rural Health director of clinical services Margie McLeod, Western Victoria PHN chief executive officer Rowena Clift, resident Shirley Roeszler, Better Places Australia CEO Serge Sardo, Better Places Australia manager Rhonda Withers and Hesse Rural Health CEO Carissa Brock.

A new allocation of funding will help improve the mental health and wellbeing of aged care residents in the Geelong region.

The federal government has earmarked $670,000 to extend Psychological Therapy Services (PTS) into residential aged care facilities (RACFs), such as Hesse Rural Health’s Hesse Lodge in Winchelsea.

Western Victoria Primary Health Network (WVPHN) has engaged Better Place Australia and APMHA Healthcare Limited to deliver the service, which will enable greater access to mental health clinicians in the Geelong Otway region until June 2022.

This new mental health support service will provide short-term (12 month) psychological therapy to residents with a diagnosable mental illness or to residents who have attempted, or are at risk of, suicide or self-harm.

Requests for the service can come from the resident, family and friends, aged care assessment team or RACF staff.

A GP, registered nurse, psychiatrist or psychologist can then refer the resident into the PTS program.

The treatment service is designed to provide better access to mental health support, particularly for people who face barriers using mainstream treatment due to low income, living in a rural or remote location, or are hard to reach, such as residents in aged care facilities.

WVPHN chief executive officer Rowena Clift said the extension of the PTS into RACFs recognised the significant needs of older people residing in residential aged care facilities and were designed to extend services into these facilities and make services far more accessible.

“Western Victoria PHN has a strong focus on working with community and health care services to directly respond to local mental health needs,” she said.

“With evidence from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2015) estimating that approximately 39 per cent of all permanent aged care residents are living with mild to moderate depression, we want to help these people as much as possible, especially when recovering from the effects of the pandemic.

“To have a mental health clinician be able to visit an aged care resident makes accessing this support easier for the patients and complements the care already delivered by the aged care workforce.”

She said the recent Aged Care Royal Commission final report highlighted the limited access aged care residents had to mental health support, with mental health conditions not being adequately addressed.

“WVPHN is pleased to be addressing this need and supports the recommendations of the report,” Ms Clift said.

“This is part of our ongoing effort to ensure anyone in our community with mental illness receives the right care in the right place at the right time.”

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