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What will state election candidates do to fix Murrindindi Shire’s ongoing mental healthcare mess. Kinglake Ranges News investigates



It’s Mental Health Week and following Murrindindi Shire’s open letter “call [ing] on all political parties standing for election to urgently fix the significant gaps in mental health services for our community,” Kinglake Ranges News contacted all candidates and incumbent, Cindy McLeish (Lib) for a response.

Their statements, unedited, are published below.

Eildon (state) election candidates Sally Brennan (ALP); Michelle Dunscombe (Ind.) and the Greens’ Nicole Rowan and Ken Deacon provided a response.

Liberal incumbent and Member for Eildon, Cindy McLeish, did not respond to requests for comment.

Sally Brennan

Sally Brennan, Labor candidate for Eildon:

In talking to people in Murrindindi, I hear all the time that mental health services are hard to access.

There are no acute mental health services locally. There are no crisis mental health services locally.

There are some support and counselling agencies like Wellways and Salvation Army that outreach into Murrindindi and some community health services funded by the State Government, who respond to the needs of people with anxiety and depression.

I was delighted when The Andrews Labor Government invested $705 million in Mental health services in the 2018/19 budget.

It is vital that Murrindindi benefits from this massive investment in mental health, and I am working hard with Minister [for Mental Health] Martin Foley to ensure that the unique needs of many Murrindindi communities are met.

I’m also working to ensure that these services work effectively with the people they are there to support.  This means quality services that are locally based, easily accessed, and ongoing.

I remember how shattering it was when in 2014 the Liberal government cut funding to vital, locally based support services, and replaced them with an appointment with a stranger at a service outside the community.

This effectively cut many people needing support and care out of managing their own mental health, and into crisis management involving hospital emergencies and psych wards. I will fight hard for a mental health system that supports people properly, and that never takes us back to those days.

I will work hard to ensure that the people in Murrindindi can access the services they need.  What matters to me is that people can receive the support and treatment they need when they need it, close to home.

In my experience, people who live with mental health issues know what support they need in order to manage and GP’s play a big role supporting them.

What’s important to me is that they can receive this help and support quickly, and we certainly have work to do in addressing the alignment of regions, particularly mental health and acute care.

My priority is ensuring the best healthcare and services are available for Murrindindi. The Labor government has made it clear that quality healthcare is not negotiable: it should be available to everyone, it should be close to home, and it must be fast and free.

We know that people in rural areas have worse health outcomes, so we need constant and expert monitoring of regional health outcomes to ensure appropriate delivery of services.

I’ll continue to advocate for improvements where they’re needed, and work with health services to ensure we’re getting the very best health outcomes for our communities now and into the future.

First up, I will advocate for increased Mental health funding in Murrindindi. I think Mental health is the biggest health issue facing our communities. That’s why I was so proud in May when the Labor government announced unprecedented investment in mental health.

If we can get people the support they need, when they need it most, it goes a long way to preventing some of the worst consequences of a mental health crisis.

Labor is funding intensive community mental health services and making more rehab beds available in regional hospitals.

These are great programs and if elected I’ll advocate as part of the Labor government to ensure they support the communities in Murrindindi.

I want to see Murrindindi benefit from this extraordinary investment, and I’m working hard to make sure it happens.

  • Sally Brennan, Labor for Eildon.

Michelle Dunscombe

Michelle Dunscombe, Independent candidate for Eildon:

I support Murrindindi Shire’s call for Mental Health to be a focus for candidates during the campaign.

Mental Health services across the Shire are stretched to capacity and as a result people feel they are being let down.

We need increased funding to support existing services to deliver mental health services in Alexandra, Yea, Marysville and the Kinglake Ranges and provide regular outreach services to our smaller communities.

Reading submissions to the Federal Senate committees inquiry into “Accessibility and quality of mental health services in rural and remote Australia”, it’s easy to see that Goulburn Valley Health is stretched to provide mental health for the Hume region (our mental health region).

This coupled with the lack of public transport to access services the current system is not suitable to the needs of people in Murrindindi.

Better Mental Health is a very personal priority for me, I hear time and time again from people across the Eildon electorate, stories of not being able to access the care they require or being asked to travel long distances for mental health support.

I hear about the pressure mental health call outs place on our police force, who are not mental health professionals.

We need to remove barriers, increase the number of Critical Assessment Teams [CAT] in our region and have local services available 24/7.

We need to support our two local hospitals in Murrindindi, to expand the services they provide to our community, working together this can be achieved.

I have seen wonderful school based health and well-being teams supporting young people and teachers.

There are so many creative ways we can support better mental health outcomes, some requiring additional funding and others just a rethink about the way we approach mental health.

  • Michelle Dunscombe, Independent for Eildon

Nicole Rowan & Ken Deacon

Ken Deacon, Greens candidate for Eildon & Nicole Rowan, Greens candidate for Northern Victoria:

Greens candidates for Eildon, Ken Deacon, and Northern Victoria, Nicole Rowan, have welcomed the proactive call by Murrindindi Shire Councillors and Chief Executive Officer to urgently fix the significant gaps in mental health services in the Murrindindi community.

In response, they [Greens] have announced a raft of funding measures to restore funding to the state’s mental health sector.

“Access to mental health services, where you live, when you need it, is essential” Ken Deacon said, “The Victorian Greens are aware that there are too few services being provided under the current State Government and they are not keeping up with demand.”

Ken Deacon noted that youth mental health services were particularly underfunded.

“Failure to fund services properly has implications for other community resources,” Ken Deacon said, “If people can’t access specific mental health services, they turn to hospitals who are not equipped to deal with these specialised needs.

“Some people are forced to travel to access services, but this assumes an adequate public transport system, which we simply do not have here in the Murrindindi Shire.”

“This is not good enough in a Shire whose residents confronted the worst natural disaster in Australia’s history, the Black Saturday fires on 2009. The mental health issues that evolved as a consequence is still reverberating through the fire affected communities.”

Ms Nicole Rowan, a candidate for the upper house electorate of Northern Victoria, believes that the commitment by the Victorian Greens can address concerns raised by the Murrindindi Shire and deliver mental health services to a level required.

“Coinciding with World Mental Health Day, our Victorian Greens Spokesperson for Mental Health, Lidia Thorpe, has today launched a $270 million commitment to restore funding to the state’s mental health sector.” Ms Rowan said.

“Tens of thousands of Victorians have serious and complex mental health needs and this policy will ensure that each of those receive the level of care that they deserve.”

The Policy includes:

• $200 million over 4 years to restore funding to Community Mental Health Services to provide care to people who are not NDIS eligible.
• $10 million to embed sexual safety practices and reforms in our mental health services.
• $12 million to construct a new youth dedicated clinical prevention and recovery care facility.
• $48 million over four years for dedicated youth clinical services.

  • Ken Deacon, Greens for Eildon & Nicole Rowan Greens for Northern Victoria

Kinglake Ranges News contacted Labor's Sally Brennan (Candidate for Eildon) and Minister for Mental Health, Martin Foley (ALP); Liberal's Cindy McLeish (Eildon-incumbent); Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Emma Kealy (Lib); Shadow Minister for Health Mary Wooldridge (Lib) and Opposition Leader Matthew Guy (Lib); The Greens' Nicole Rowan (Northern Victoria) and Ken Deacon (Candidate for Eildon); and Independent Michelle Dunscombe (Candidate for Eildon) for a response.

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