Headspace has allayed concerns for its immediate future, nine days out from sweeping mental health reforms that will change the way the service is funded.
From July 1, headspace centres will be managed by Primary Health Networks instead of the headspace national office.
Murray PHN will receive funding for headspace centres in Bendigo, Swan Hill, Mildura, Shepparton and Albury-Wodonga.
Headspace Bendigo program manager Jenny Singe reassured young people services were operating as usual and would continue to do so, for at least the next two years.
She said there was some uncertainty about what would happen thereafter.
Primary Health Networks will assess mental health services in their regions, with the aim of making the system more integrated and accessible in their communities.
Murray PHN chief executive Matt Jones said there would be “no changes whatsoever” to headspace services for the next two years.
“So no immediate disruption, no short-term changes,” he said.
“There will be long-term planning about how to strengthen the service provision.”
About 125 new referrals are lodged with headspace Bendigo each month by people aged 12 – 25.
“They don’t need a referral or parental consent – they can just come in and access the service,” Mrs Singe said.
“It’s all free, and if we are not the right service for them, we guide and support them until they get the right help.
“We have people come from all over the place – as far as Echuca, Donald, Kyneton and Kyabram.”
Mr Jones said the new arrangement was more a responsive approach to regional and community needs.
Funding for several other programs will also be transferred to Primary Health Networks as part of mental health reforms planned for the next three years.
The federal government wrote in January that PHNs would “play a key role in the reform process, particularly through the planning and commissioning of primary mental health services at a regional level, supported by a flexible funding pool for mental health and suicide prevention services.”
Changes to the “scope, structure and role” of the headspace national office have prompted headspace chief executive Chris Tanti leave the role, which he has held since headspace started in 2006.
“The Health Minister’s statements make it clear there is no guaranteed support for headspace beyond June 2018,” a statement by Shadow Minister for Mental Health Senator Katy Gallagher read.
For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services, call Lifeline 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au.