Assistant Minister McBride– interview on ABC North and West SA – 30 June 2023

Read the transcript of Assistant Minister McBride's interview with Tom Mann about Head to Health Port Pirie, South Australia.

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

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TOM MANN, HOST: We've all struggled or know someone who's struggled with poor mental health, but the barriers can sometimes be too big to surmount to seek help. A new walk-in mental health clinic is set to be established in Port Pirie. Funded by the Federal Government, the clinic, which was announced yesterday, will be fully operational by the middle of 2024 and will be a free wellbeing space needing no appointment to access. Emma McBride is the Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. Good morning.

EMMA McBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: Tom. Good to be with you.

MANN: So can you begin by telling me about this new clinic?

McBRIDE: The Head Health Service is one that really removes the barriers for access for people to be able to get that mental health support and care that they need. You can walk in without a prior appointment, you don't need a referral from a GP and you'll be able to get multidisciplinary care, the right kind of care to support your mental health and wellbeing. It might be that someone comes in to get some information, it might be that they're in crisis and they need services and support right now. We're opening 61 nationally and five in South Australia and I'm so pleased that there'll be one available to the town and to the surrounding region coming up towards the middle of next year.

MANN: And so what gaps do you imagine these Head to Health clinics will fill in for people who are struggling with mental health issues?

McBRIDE: Well, what we've seen around Australia is an increase in distress and more people seeking mental health support. And these services are designed for people who have moderate to more severe mental ill health where they need more than the help of just a psychologists but don't need to be in our acute hospital system. So someone who can benefit from working with a mental health nurse, with an occupational therapist, with a peer worker. So what we know is that multidisciplinary team based care is the right kinds of care and in Head to Health in South Australia and right around Australia, that's what people will be able to experience. Often being able to see a GP or to be able to get a referral can take time and with these services somebody can walk in without a prior appointment, without needing a referral, to get that information and support straightaway.

MANN: And, you know, I guess the complexity of a walk-in mental health clinic that doesn't require appointments is it's a fantastic thing for people who are dealing with immediate issues, but it can be complex to know how many people will be attending at a time. How many staff will there be to deal with the possible demand for this clinic?

McBRIDE: So we've seen in the clinics around Australia that the staff profile, the staff build up, is designed to meet the needs of that local community. So typically, we've seen between around five to 10 staff, but it is designed to meet the needs of that local community, and some of them that I visited in Launceston in Tasmania, in Geelong in Victoria, or Townsville in Queensland, they each have a different staff profile, because there's the flexibility to meet the needs of that local community.

A particular type of staff that is so beneficial is a peer worker, so someone with their own lived or living experience of mental ill health, who's had the right kind of training to support people who are experiencing something similar to themselves. And so I think that's one of the real benefits as well of Head to Health is that you have the right kinds of mental health care worker to meet you where you're at and for the particular needs that you're experiencing.

MANN: Emma McBride is with me, the Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention with the Federal Government, speaking about the new initiative for Head to Health clinic, which will set to be open in Port Pirie in the middle of next year. And so what impact do you hope these clinics will have?

McBRIDE: Well, what I've seen elsewhere around Australia is that it really helps people either in immediate crisis who are seeking information and support because Head to Health is often open over extended hours, so outside of the outside of the normal business hours. That means if somebody is in crisis, and it's you know, eight o'clock at night, that they can go to their Head to Health and they'll be met by somebody who's going to help them with their immediate needs, and that might be that they need to be triaged and then referred to another service or it might mean that they can work with them within the clinic to provide the support and care that they need.

So we have been right around Australia and this was emerging before COVID but has been exacerbated through COVID, an increasing distress in the community. And what we want to make sure that somebody can get the care that they need immediately, rather than having to wait for that care so that they get the support they need, so that it doesn't become worse and so they don't end up in our already overstretched hospital system.

MANN: And so this seems to be an acknowledgment as well of the barriers that can be to seek some traditional mental health. You know, like a psychologist, how big can the barrier be for the appointment process and cost in people seeking mental health services and stopping them from actually doing that?

McBRIDE: We know that right around Australia, there is a shortage of general practitioners and we've invested over $6 billion in the Budget and $3.5 billion in Medicare, to boost access to bulk billing so that people will be able to get in to see their GP to get a mental health treatment plan. But what we also know is that when people have more moderate to complex and ongoing treatment and care that they need a team to help them, that real holistic wraparound support. And so that's what a Head to Health will provide. It will mean that you can have a conversation with a peer worker, work with a social worker, have a mental health nurse to be able to help you with some of the particular needs that they're trained to provide the support for. So we think this is really complementary to other services, but also acknowledging that there are long wait lists which we are really working hard to reduce, that this will mean that with a Head to Health it'll be complementary to the other services but also mean that people can get that immediate care and support they need affordably and close to home.

MANN:  And so you mentioned there'll be a 61 across the country, five in South Australia, but this will be the one service like this for our region, if this is successful, might more be planned in the future?

McBRIDE: We've seen already, there's 12 that have been opened so far, and in the communities that I've visited where they're now operating, they have been very welcomed and have made a big difference to people being able to access support and care. So we've seen a strong demand for the services that have been available so far. We will evaluate the rollout of the services and are always looking to provide the right kind of investment so that people wherever they live can get access to the support and care they need affordably and close to home.

MANN: Thank you very much for your time this morning.

McBRIDE: Pleasure to be with you.

MANN: Emma McBride there, Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.

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