Mental health funding reprieve

The exit time for a mental health nurse servicing communities such as Bridgewater has been extended until September 30.
The exit time for a mental health nurse servicing communities such as Bridgewater has been extended until September 30.

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Communities in the southern part of the Loddon Shire have been given a three-month extension for when they could lose access to a mental health worker.

Inglewood and Districts Health Service this month made the decision not renew the contract for the mental health worker, following the reallocation of federal government funding.

The funding, provided by Murray Primary Health Network, was due to be reallocated to focus on chronic disease from June 30 this year, but will now continue until the end of September.

In a statement released by the Inglewood and Districts Health Service, it said this time would be used to “complete a service and needs analysis within the IDHS catchment while providing support in the development of a transition plan”.

The mental health worker currently sees about 39 clients in townships in the southern half of the Loddon Shire and works two days a week.

Alcohol and drug services provided by the health service’s social worker will also be affected by the changes, resulting in three days less of work per fortnight for the staff member.

Wedderburn resident and mental health advocate Ric Raftis said the three-month reprieve was a good step.

“It’s really as a result of the community concern that we’ve got the extension and now that gives people time to have discussion and consultation about the issue,” he said.

“It’s a great thing because it facilitates consultation between the parties so the best outcome can be achieved for Loddon.”

Discussions will continue on Monday into the future of the two services, with Loddon Shire committee Loddon Healthy Minds Network meeting with the Inglewood and Districts Health Service and Murray PHN.

Mr Raftis, who is also a community representative on the Loddon Healthy Minds committee, has been vocal in his opposition of the loss of services.

“I just want the best outcome for Wedderburn and for the other townships that IDHS services,” he said.

“We want to put the cards on the table and work out how we can achieve that and not lose our services.”