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ABOVE: (l-r) Professor Pat McGorry AO, Page MP Kevin Hogan, and federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, are pictured at the announcement that a headspace would be opened in Grafton. Prof McGorry is a founding member of headspace and was the 2010 Australian of the Year, in recognition of his work as a “leading international researcher, clinician and advocate for the youth mental health reform agenda”. Image: Contributed.

Valley’s mental health plan ‘built on hope’

ABOVE: (l-r) Professor Pat McGorry AO, Page MP Kevin Hogan, and federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, are pictured at the announcement that a headspace would be opened in Grafton. Prof McGorry is a founding member of headspace and was the 2010 Australian of the Year, in recognition of his work as a “leading international researcher, clinician and advocate for the youth mental health reform agenda”. Image: Contributed.

When federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that his government would open a headspace facility in Grafton and allocate over $600,000 for other mental health services, he said the improvements were “built on hope, but backed by practical action”.
“I’m proud to announce that the Australian Government will support the Our Healthy Clarence plan 2016-2018,” he told the media throng and public outside Page MP Kevin Hogan’s Grafton office on Thursday February 23.
He said the headspace facility would receive permanent, ongoing funding.
“The initial four years will be approximately $3.5million,” he said.
“This is about a one-stop shop, a youth mental health services hub … to add to the existing services, to give them a safe [and supportive] place.”
A North Coast Primary Health Network (NCPHN) media release outlined how the $639,955 in funding is to be spent.
“The Our Healthy Clarence Plan 2016-18 is now complete and the new funding package will significantly advance its goals,” the media release states.
Suicide prevention measures specifically in the Clarence Valley ($154,517): NCPHN is contracting CRANES Community Support Programs to provide mental health first aid, youth mental health first aid and applied suicide intervention skills (ASIST) to community members and other stakeholders.
Aboriginal mental health and suicide prevention ($333,384): NCPHN is contracting CRANES to provide Aboriginal mental health first aid, Aboriginal youth mental health first aid and mental health first aid for the suicidal person to Aboriginal community members and workers, ASIST training for frontline staff, and advanced skills training for GPs and other health professionals working with Aboriginal people. While this training will be conducted across the entire NCPHN footprint, the focus will be within the Clarence Valley.
Post-suicide support for Clarence Valley families and communities ($90,000): This funding will be utilised to support initiatives stemming from the Our Healthy Clarence plan, including development of resource packs for people who attempt suicide, their families and friends, and communication protocols for service providers after suicide.
Improved access to psychiatry ($62,000): This funding will assist with bringing a twice-monthly child psychiatry service to Grafton via both face-to-face and telehealth, and an existing adult psychiatry service will be increased from two days per month to two days per fortnight.
Doctor Vahid Saberi, NCPHN’s chief executive, said: “As the agency responsible for establishing and contracting headspaces on the north coast, NCPHN will take swift action so that the Grafton headspace is established and operating quickly.”
He said expressions of interest would be invited from local organisations to set up and manage the new youth mental health service.
“We need to ensure the best organisation is selected to lead the establishment and management of headspace Grafton,” he said.
On the political front, Kevin Hogan said he was “grateful” Minister Hunt had listened to him.
“Greg Hunt became health minister a few weeks ago,” he said.
“I rang him immediately on his appointment and demanded a headspace for the Clarence Valley.
“Every time a person takes their own life, it is an absolute tragedy.
“We have had more than our fair share, which has rocked our community. This must stop
“While headspace won’t solve everything, it will help.”
Mr Hunt said he had talked with local families, suicide prevention advocates and clinical service providers, “to better understand the issues facing the community”.
“The recent loss to suicide of so many young lives in the region is an immense tragedy; these deaths have had a marked impact on family, friends and the community,” he said.
“…I want to acknowledge the work and commitment of the Clarence Valley community, which has been working with the North Coast Primary Health Network since last August on ways to reduce suicide.”
headspace’s CEO Jason Trethowan said: “headspace thrives on youth participation and listening to the voices of young people – we want to help expand the progress that is being made here in Grafton.”
“…Between now and the opening of headspace Grafton, we want young people to know that they can access headspace either through our dedicated online or phone service – eheadspace,” he said.

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