A NEW mental health hub in Kangaroo Flat will help people struggling to cope during the coronavirus pandemic by offering clinical advice, referral and wraparound care.
The HeadtoHelp was established after concerns were raised about an increase in incidents of self-harm and a rise in the amount of people using services such as Beyond Blue, Lifeline and Kids Helpline.
It is one of 15 hubs funded by the federal government's $31.9 million mental health support package and is operated by Primary Health Networks in Victoria.
Murray PHN chief executive Matt Jones said it was direct recognition that the COVID-19 pandemic was producing an increased demand on mental health services.
"We need new, strengthened ways to access mental health care in communities," he said. "This hub is specifically focused on mild-to-high mental health needs. (It) is based in communities for people dealing with a range of issues but are still active in the community.
"HeadtoHelp will work closely with existing providers including GPs and hospitals, referring people to more intensive mental health care or social supports if they need that level of help."
Bendigo Community Health Services executive director Peter Richardson said there had been an increase in people wanting to use mental health services during the pandemic.
"Certainly there is a need there, (this will) generate a lot of people who aren't linked to mental health services who are seeking assistance for the first time," Mr Richardson said.
"Our referrals for our own Bendigo Community Health services have been increasing through the pandemic. This service is available for anyone. There are no age limits, we have what's called a 'no wrong door' policy that means if someone contacts us we will assist them."
HeadtoHelp is free and includes telehealth, video conferencing and face-to-face services. People call the service and are directed to the hub closest to them based on their postcode. The service is funded for 12 months.
"(Calls) are geo-routed, depending on where people are ringing from, to the hub within their closest proximity," Mr Jones said. "An assessment is undertaken and, if the needs align, you get an appointment. If you're outside a location (that has a hub) you are connected to an available service.
"We are starting with two full-time clinicians and have the capacity to increase to seven full-time clinicians. As the service gets known and generates referrals, demand will increase and we can increase capacity."
HeadtoHelp is a free service. To contact a hub, phone 1800 595 212 or visit their website www.headtohelp.org.au
And if you or someone you know needs support, contact: