Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention - press conference - 27 February 2023

Read the transcript of Assistant Minister McBride's press conference in Launceston on Head to Health Launceston; eating disorders; mental health.

The Hon Emma McBride MP
Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
Assistant Minister Rural and Regional Health

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EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: I am so pleased to be here today on behalf of the Government at the official opening of Head to Health here in Launceston. We know that since the temporary site was opened just over 12 months ago, that more than 680 people have benefited from the help and support that's offered here, through more than 4,000 individual sessions of care. One of the real benefits of the model of Head to Health is that you don't necessarily need an appointment. You don't need a referral. And you can walk in free of charge. We know that there's a big gap in mental health and suicide prevention services across Australia, which is why I'm so proud to be here for the official opening in Launceston today. It was one of the first eight sites across Australia, and now the Government is rolling up 32 around the country. One of the other real benefits of the model is its flexibility that is co-designed as Tash from Flourish was saying, with the local community so that it can meet the needs of individual communities. It has a multidisciplinary approach and a peer concierge so that you're greeted by somebody who has their own lived and living experience. And that's something that we know has to underpin any of the work that we do in mental health and suicide prevention. I'd like to acknowledge Mark from Primary Health Tasmania, Darren leading the team here, Tash from Flourish and also Bridget Archer, the local member for Bass who will speak later and is a passionate advocate for these types of services locally.

JOURNALIST: So you mentioned 32 more are planned nationwide. Are there any more plans for Tasmania?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: There are, we're hoping by the end of October that there'll be another service in Burnie, that there'll be one in Devonport, and one in the outer parts of Hobart. We know that through COVID, there's been a surge in demand for services, and we know that there has been an existing gap for people experiencing mild to moderate mental ill-health. So someone can walk in without an appointment, without a referral, and free of charge and get the help and support they need. They can also come in if they're in crisis and distress, and we heard today that from the end of March, that there'll be an after our services here because, as Derkis has said, that mental health doesn't keep office hours and someone will be able to walk in from five to nine on weekdays and also across the weekend to be able to get the help and support that they need.

JOURNALIST: So how much is the federal government investing in those other services around the state?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: So the Federal Government invested more than $10 million in this purpose built facility here for the setup and also the operational costs of it. But across Australia, we're investing more than $600 million in the rollout of the Head to Health network across Australia. As I said, where we're standing here in Launceston at this new permanent site was one of the first eight in what was a pilot and I had the privilege of opening the Head to Health service in Geelong last week and one the week before in Civic in Canberra. So this is part of a national rollout, which is properly resourced to make sure that we can get them up and running. As I said, I believe the ones locally here in Burnie and Devonport and outer Hobart are likely to be up and running by the end of October this year.

JOURNALIST: What were your thoughts coming in here for the first time?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: As Lisa said, it's a really welcoming place. It's a place where I think someone would walk in and have the trust and confidence to know that they're going to get the help and support that they need. As Lisa was saying, she was referred by a friend. It wasn't a service that she knew about. But coming in, she has now got the help and support that she needs. And I think the word is clearly spreading because more than 680 people have had the same experience that Lisa has had. And we know that now we have this permanent site that more people will be able to benefit.

JOURNALIST: Why has there been such a push or focus on mental health? Are we seeing more people needing to use the services?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: We are. We know that through the Productivity Commission Report there was identified a big shortfall in mental health support for people experiencing moderate to severe mental ill-health. So someone who needs more support than an individual session of care with a psychologist but doesn't meet the threshold to be admitted to a hospital in the units that I used to work in. And that's where the Head to Health model fits. We also know that there was existing shortfalls before COVID, but they have been amplified through COVID

JOURNALIST: Has that been especially worse in regional and rural areas? Why is it so important we do invest in these types of areas?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: It is absolutely critical. We know that the further you live outside of a major metro, the worse your access to health care is likely to be including mental health care. And that's something that as someone who represents, who grew up in, a regional community myself, I've seen firsthand. So it's absolutely critical that we have the right services in the right places, that people can access.

JOURNALIST: There's a Four Corners report on ABC tonight essentially saying the number of eating disorder cases in Australia is on the rise and that the health system is failing to deal with the crisis. What's the Government doing to try and address that problem?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: So we have seen through COVID-19, and through some more recent reports and ABS data, that there has been an increase in disordered eating and eating disorders. Very recently, I was able to, with the New South Wales State Minister, to open a unit at the University of Sydney, which is designed to increase that translational research. Eating disorders are very complex. They're still not well understood. And we need to build that understanding about what works and also to translate that into practice. The Federal Government is also investing with the States and Territories in residential eating disorder units. There's also a National Collaborative to build the understanding of practitioners to be able to provide the right support and care. It is very complex. It's something that we're working very closely with the States and Territories to do. And there is more work to do, which we're determined to do.

JOURNALIST: Okay. The Federal Health Minister described it as a crisis. Would you agree with that?

EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: And that's what I've heard from individuals and families. We're seeing eating disorders emerge earlier in life. And they are something that are, you know, as I said, quite often misunderstood and something that we're determined to work with the States and Territories to improve so that people can get the right access and support we know that they're the most lethal of mental health disorders. And it's something that is of a concern to me, to Minister Butler, and to so many of people across the Parliament. It's something that we've got multi-partisan support for. It is something that is absolutely critical that we approach in a very well thought out way to make sure that any interventions we make are safe.

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