A draft Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Plan for the Murrumbidgee region does not propose more acute beds, except at the Yathong Lodge Dementia unit in Wagga Wagga.
A summary to the 100 page document says recommendations are made to form authentic partnerships with the non government sector and other service providers to achieve improved consumer outcomes.
Director, Robyn Manzie, says the region has 10 new acute beds in the expanded mental health unit in Wagga.
“That puts us in a better position than we were,” she said.
“But all the expectations from communities and families and carers are that beds are the last resort, that we should be providing services, interventions earlier, so that people don’t get to a point where they’re so unwell they need a bed.
The Murrumbidgee Local Health District is also looking to transfer services to meet the ageing population’s mental health needs.
The draft five year plan makes 26 recommendations.
One is to add eight mental health acute inpatient beds for older people at the Yathong Lodge Dementia Unit, in the phase three rebuild of Wagga Base Hospital which is unfunded.
Ms Manzie says the needs of the elderly are increasing.
“Our services for older people are fairly thin on the ground now and we actually need to move some of our service provision to that target group,” she said.
“It really is about prioritising.
“Our services are managing at the moment, but we know that the older population is going to grow bigger so we need to be prepared for that expansion, if you like, and all the mental health problems that come along with ageing.”
The MLHD says improving access to services is the key message from consumers and experts in its draft Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol plan.
The plan suggests the MLHD concentrate on acute or crisis intervention, while strengthening therapeutic services, with less focus on community development and prevention that can be done by other agencies.
It says investment in workforce development and technology are essential to support new models of care and rectify issues of inequitable access to services in isolated areas.
Ms Manzie says the plan promotes partnerships such as with the Medicare Local, which is in jeopardy in the switch to Primary Health Networks.
“I think we’ve got a really good model in the way Murrumbidgee Medicare Local and Murrumbidgee Local Health District have worked together and with the NGO partners on mental health,” she said.
“So we’ve got a lot of successful lessons learned that we want to take forward into whatever new environment it is.”
Public comments on the plan can be lodged until Friday.
This article first appeared on ‘ABC’ on 1 December 2014.