Mental health service stays public

A PUBLIC residential mental health facility in Traralgon will remain under Latrobe Regional Hospital’s management following instructions from State Mental Health Minister Martin Foley.

Late last year the Health and Community Services Union called on the hospital to withdraw plans of contracting out its Community Residential Care Units, which provide people with a mental illness a pathway to live independently.

The hospital disputed the union’s claims at the time, saying it was instead investigating a proposal to share management with an external mental health agency to broaden the service offered.

HACSU state secretary Lloyd Williams told The Express the union feared the mental health facility would be undermined if contracted out to a non-clinical organisation.

“We were horrified at the time, because Community Residential Care Units are clinical mental health units and they provide care and support for people who require ongoing clinical treatment and support, as part of their recovery from serious mental illness,” Mr Williams said.

“The not-for-profit mental health services do a great job within their area of expertise.

“We should not be undermining our very important clinical mental health services to simply save money.”

The Express understands the proposal included introducing a Prevention and Recovery Care Service in Traralgon, similar to what was available in Bairnsdale.

The CRCU facility in Garden Grove provides long-term, supported care in 14 residential units, while PARCS provides people with a shorter residential stay of up to 28 days.

A tender had been awarded to Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria to partner LRH’s management of a PARCS facility in Traralgon, following consultation with staff and the union.

“Mental health agencies across Gippsland work in partnership to ensure there is support for a person at every step of their recovery,” LRH director of mental health Cayte Hoppner said.

“Our aim is to offer better outcomes to people by integrating services and the level of expertise that exists in the mental health sector.”

In the lead up to last year’s state election, Labor vowed to avoid the privatisation or contracting out of mental health clinical treatment and rehabilitation services.

This comes under the Victorian Labor Platform, which Mr Foley has advised health services to follow.

“The CRCUs provide an important bed-based treatment and rehabilitation option in the mental health service system,” Mr Foley said.

“This helps free up beds… as well as ensuring that people receive the most appropriate care and treatment according to their needs.”

Although MIFV will continue managing the PARCS facility in Bairnsdale, Ms Hoppner said she was disappointed the same model would not be introduced in the Latrobe Valley.

“I respect the decision made by Mental Health Minister Martin Foley,” she said.

“LRH will now explore other options to ensure more people with mental health issues have access to recovery programs.”