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The End for NT Indigenous Mental Health Service?

The following statement regarding the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s remote central Australian mental health service’s funding crisis has been issued by Health Consumers of Remote and Rural Australia (HCRRA).

(*This blog post relates to previous posts: ‘Response to Warren Snowdon’s media release‘, Media release re funding cuts from Warren Snowdon MP‘; ‘More on mental health funding cuts…‘; and ‘The loss of RFDS from nntaria – funding slashed‘) 

The End for NT Indigenous Mental Health Service?

For the past six years, Aboriginal people with mental health issues living in 10 remote Aboriginal communities and more than 50 outstations west of Alice Springs have had access to an innovative primary mental health service. It has been delivered under the Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Areas program (MHSRRA). However, in a recent media release, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Indigenous Affairs – Warren Snowdon – tells us that the Government has refused to roll over funding to the NT Medicare Local meaning the provider of MHSRRA (The Royal Flying Doctor  Service) is no longer able to deliver the service.

In our experience, Mr. Snowdon is normally an affable sort of bloke but he is clearly incensed by this:

The cuts to this vital service are shameful and absolutely unjustifiable…

There can be no excuse. I do not care what state the budget is in; this is an essential service. You would not tolerate this if it were on the North Shore of Sydney.

Mental healing takes time. These patients usually need to have access to the bonded therapist for at least two years. Continuity of the relationship is essential. The consequences of not doing this are dire and can lead to suicide attempts and other setbacks. Yet now the rollover funding for this program has been denied. Minister Dutton said he would roll over funding for the program. That has been denied. The Prime Minister promised before the election that he would not cut frontline health services. This is a frontline health service. Its funding has been cut.

A HCRRA member living in the area tells us that the program:

…is considered to be a model of how effective and culturally safe primary mental health care services can be delivered. It has had a very stable workforce with some members of the team having been in their roles for 6 years or more, and so have built a strong relationship of trust and developed considerable knowledge about the culture and primary mental health care practices in remote communities.

HCRRA agrees with Warren Snowdon that:

…the Health Minister, Mr. Dutton and the Territory’s own Mr. Scullion, explain why the funding for this service, through the Medicare Local, was not rolled over… 

Jeff Wearne
Executive Officer
Health Consumers of Rural and Remote australia

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