Through this blog, CASSE has been following the ongoing debate about funding cuts to remote mental health services in central Australia. Today’s update includes media interviews with Warren Snowdon on the topic, along with a copy of a media release issued by the Mental Health Association of Central Australia (MHACA): MHACA Media Release re remote mental health service funding cuts 30 July 2014
(*This blog post relates to previous posts: ‘Debate continues about remote mental health service funding cuts‘, ’Media Release – RFDS clarifies position on NT Medicare Local funding‘, ‘More questions about remote mental health service funding cuts‘, ‘Questions from Practitioners of Central Australia‘, ‘Response from NT Medicare Local regarding funding cuts‘, ‘The End for NT Indigenous Mental Health Service?‘, ‘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‘)
Subject: Snowdon on Top FM re central Australian RFDS mental health cuts & WFD; plus Snowdon & Tollner on ABC Darwin re WFD new Jobs plan, Tuesday 29th July, Interview with Daryl Manzie at this link:
Subject: Snowdon Re: Mental Health Program cuts on ABC radio in Alice Springs this morning.
Nadine Maloney’s questions to Warren Snowdon this morning about the NT Medicare Local decision to halve funding broadcast on ABC regional radio 783 in Alice Springs yesterday:
NM: …. [on the mental health program and Medicare Local] whats the latest there, anything new?
WS: Look I understand that there was to be a meeting yesterday between the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Medicare Local.
But there are a number of issues here. One of which is that the Commonwealth needs to provide the $140,000 I think it is, that was underspent last year. The money was underspent because the RFDS was unable to recruit a worker for a particular position and that is understandable, but that’s no reason to lop the budget because the worker is still required. So once they recruit then you have got to pay the worker. Then there is the issue of the way the negotiations have been going between the Medicare Local and the RFDS.
I’m frankly a bit over that sort of stuff, what we have got to do is make sure that there is continuity of care for those people who receive the services that are currently being provided by those workers in the western desert region, that’s got to be the primary objective. Its for Medicare Local and the RFDS need to sit down and work out that those services can continue in whatever form. Frankly if the RFDS doesn’t want to maintain or participate or continue with those services, all well and good, but we need to make sure that those people currently providing those services continue to provide those services if at all possible.
NM: Its my understanding that the RFDS have said that they aren’t able to provide that service at a reduced cost and if the funding isn’t rolled over then they can’t keep up to their high standards.
WS: That’s one element of it. I think that it is very clear that the Commonwealth, and I said that at the outset, needs to allow the Medicare Local to retain the funds as a result of the underspend last year so that they can actually pay appropriately those people doing the job and that fits into the argument you just put about the RFDS. There should be no issue here, the money should be available, the Commonwealth has got that responsibility and should be guaranteeing it will be available, then it’s up to the Medicare Local and the RFDS to work out a set of suitable arrangements.
NM: I think we’ll be following this one further. Warren Snowdon thanks very much for your time this morning.
Mental Health Association of Central Australia is seeking urgent action to ensure that a crucial primary front line mental health service is retained in the western regions of Central Australia.
“The Mental Health Association of Central Australia are concerned that services that have previously been provided by the Royal Flying Doctor Services RFDS in western regions of Central Australia are no longer going to be provided as at 31 July, 2014”, MHACA CEO Paul Tomaszewski said today.
“The circumstances relating to what appears to be a loss or reduction of funding to the RFDS remain unclear, however, we are very concerned that this critical service will be lost”.
“The delivery of remote health services is challenging and mental health is a small but integral part of maintaining overall well being”.
“We are calling for urgent action to address this apparent service shortfall to ensure that no person is effected by any reduction to vital front line primary mental health services provided by workers who have established strong relationships with families and individuals affected by mental health issues”.
“At present there are no primary mental health service providers meeting the needs of what we believe to be a minimum of 10 effected communities”.
“We support calls by the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) for the Commonwealth Government and the Northern Territory Medicare Local (NTML) to take urgent steps to ensure that no loss or reduction of front line primary mental health services are experienced by any person, particularly those whose provision of vital mental health services currently remains unclear”.
“It is not acceptable that people living in remote areas of central Australia will no longer be able to receive vital frontline primary mental health services as at tomorrow”.
MHACA CEO Paul Tomaszewski concluded that, “A loss of frontline services for vital primary mental health supports would likely cause people to become more vulnerable and compromise their recoveries”.
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