Tuesday, 25 August 2020
Tasmania: Mental Health Services
From little things, big things grow. This quote was used recently by the CEO of the Royal Flying Doctors Service, John Kirwan, to describe how a little idea has turned into action that will have a monumental effect on the health of regional and remote Tasmanians. Early last year I received a call from David Annear, a well-known Rotarian in the northern Tasmanian community. In typical David way, he announced that he had a deal for me that I just had to consider.
Having convinced then state Treasurer Peter Gutwein to donate two former metro buses that could tour regional and remote Tasmania offering mental health services, David was seeking some federal government funding to assist with the fit-out of these buses. Happily, during the 2019 election campaign, Prime Minister Scott Morrison committed $100,000 to the mobile health buses. The original idea expanded from mental health support to also include other clinical services.
Though much progress is being made, Tasmanians do still have high rates of people living with chronic disease, which can be worse in areas that are remote. In these communities, the mobile health units will go some way to filling the gaps. I have long been an advocate for improved mental health services and providing access to mental health services for young Tasmanians, particularly those living in remote areas of our state—which is critical. That is why I am so supportive of this project. These buses will deliver mental health services such as assessment and early intervention in a safe, warm and friendly environment and minimise the stigma associated with seeking access to mental health services.
No-one in attendance for the funding announcement last year could have foreseen the circumstances under which we found ourselves this year and which will likely be with us for some time yet. There have been many critical learnings from COVID, and one key takeaway is just how important it is that services can still be accessed by members in our community who are isolated. We know the mental health impacts of COVID, from lockdown to financial distress and general anxiety, will be ongoing for many in our community. The services provided by the mobile health units will go a long way to providing valuable assistance and support. The buses can also be adapted for emergencies and were already put to good use earlier this year when one was used as a COVID-19 respiratory clinic, located outside the Launceston General Hospital, providing a quick and necessary solution to the problem of conducting COVID assessment in a safe space.
The work of the Flying Doctors and Rotary collaborating to bring these projects together is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when organisations work together. I am proud of the role that the federal government has played in bringing this idea to life.