Queensland Mental Health Commissioner Ivan Frkovic is in Longreach today to discuss the operational challenges faced by mental health services in rural and remote areas, particularly during the current drought.
Mr Frkovic said drought added another level of complexity to delivering mental health, alcohol and other drug services in remote parts of the state.
He said the Queensland Government’s $4 million funding for the Royal Flying Doctor’s wellbeing service and $2 million for the Tackling Regional Adversity through Integrated Care program were welcome investments.
“Additional resourcing is critical during times of natural disaster to meet additional service demand, but it’s just one facet of service delivery,” Mr Frkovic said.
“There also needs to be focused strategies to help organisations deal effectively with the more challenging service delivery environment.
“The range of issues they face include planning uncertainty, attraction and retention of staff, and service coordination and accessibility, particularly specialist services.
“It’s great to see increased adoption of technology, such as tele-psychiatry and psychology to connect people to the services they need without going long distances.”
Mr Frkovic said closer integration across a range of services, including health, housing, education, police and child protection, was also vital, to ensure people who need assistance receive it.
“People are more likely to seek help from a service or a person they trust, which might not necessarily be a treatment-focused mental health service,” he said.
“That’s why all human services must work together in a ‘no wrong door’ approach.”
The Commission last week released research into service users’ experience of mental health and alcohol and other drug services in western Queensland, conducted by the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) at The University of Queensland.
The research emphasised the importance of holistic case management, including actively linking consumers to the range of services or practitioners they need, as well as local follow up and support.
Mr Frkovic said greater focus on mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention was particularly necessary to support people before they reach crisis.
“This is essential to reduce the risks and impact of mental ill-health,” he said.
He urged people to sustain social networks and connections as a means of support.
“It’s particularly important for people to check in on others and to speak up if they are struggling.”