A SUPPORTED residential service wants to open a 60 - 70 bed facility for people with mental illness in Bendigo, but has been unable to get a response from the minister about funding.
The Ballarat-based service gets about three calls a week from Bendigo requesting care.
Bendigo is believed to have fewer than 50 supported residential services beds, compared with more than 200 in the Ballarat area.
Anglicare Victoria specialist mental health homelessness worker Hannah Gordon said people from Bendigo were regularly referred to services in Cobram, Maryborough, Kyneton, Lancefield and Ballarat.
She said the desire not to leave natural networks was a deterrent to some people who would benefit from accessing supported residential accommodation.
"There is a huge need for it," Ms Gordon said.
She said people who were referred for supported residential services either couldn't, or didn't feel confident, to live independently because of their disability.
Residential support services encompass a range of needs including personal care, cleaning, medication services, emotional support, meal support and clothing support.
A Bendigo Health spokesperson said the lack of supported residential service in the community was a barrier to discharge for patients.
"The demand for SRS accommodation is high and has increased over recent years due to the lack of affordable housing options in the region," they said.
"Having additional services in Bendigo would result in clients not having to consider alternative accommodation options and would help them stay connected with their local community, friends and family," they said.
Housing service providers, private rentals and family assistance are among the alternative accommodation options the health care group explores when residential support services are unavailable.
The Ballarat-based service has identified an opportunity to establish what it believes could be the best pension-level supported residential service in the state.
It has secured the lease of a vacant site well suited to the project and plans to replicate the model it offers in Ballarat, only in a 'better and bigger' building.
The service is seeking funding from the state government's Supporting Accommodation for Vulnerable Victorians Initiative to make it happen.
Without funding, the service would be faced with the prospect of staffing ratios of one to 30 - a ratio it said was not feasible.
"You can't do what we do at one to 30," it said.
It would also be forced to consider a bed registration in excess of 80, in a facility it believes would be best suited for 60 - 70 beds, for the proposal to be financially viable.
"We don't want to do that," the service said.
It has been reaching out to the office of Disability, Ageing and Carers Minister Luke Donnellan once a week, every week, for the past 10 weeks.
The service has yet to receive a response.
It has also contacted Mental Health Minister Martin Foley.
"We boosted funding to Bendigo Health for mental health services by more than a million dollars last year as part of our record investment in mental health support and extra regional rehabilitation facilities – but we know there is more to do," Mr Foley told the Bendigo Advertiser.
The state government is in the process of establishing terms of reference for a Royal Commission into Mental Health, which is expected to be underway by March.
"The Royal Commission into Mental Health will be the first of its kind in Australia. It will be wide-ranging, and will look at accessibility and quality of care across our system," Mr Foley said.
Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards has written to both ministers to advocate for the proposed supported residential service in Bendigo.
"I am very supported [sic] of this proposal as Bendigo and the region is in great need of this type of accommodation and support for our community," she wrote in letters dated December 14.
"I would be pleased if you would be able to advise at your earliest convenience on this matter as [the service provider] is keen to advance this proposal in early 2019."
Ms Edwards told the Bendigo Advertiser she had been speaking with a number of different organisations and people about the need for supported residential services in the community for 'years and years'.
"Bendigo really needs a facility like this," she said.
She has committed to do everything she can to advocate for the project.
Member for Bendigo East, Jacinta Allan said the government had provided record funding into mental health services in Victoria.
"We will continue to work with Bendigo organisations to support them, support others in need," she said.
Mr Donnellan was contacted for comment.
If you or someone you know is in need of support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.
Other resources include BeyondBlue - 1300 22 4636 and beyondblue.org.au - and SANE Australia - 1800 187 263 or www.sane.org.
In an emergency, call 000.
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