2 June 2024

Shellharbour receives a boost in mental health support with two new services officially opened

| Kellie O'Brien
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official opening of a health service

Two new services – headspace Shellharbour and Shellharbour Medicare Mental Health Centre – have officially opened to better support residents’ mental health needs. Photo: Supplied.

Shellharbour residents now have better access to mental health services and support with the official opening of two new services – headspace Shellharbour and Shellharbour Medicare Mental Health Centre – on 31 May.

Assistant Minister for Mental Health Emma McBride and Member for Whitlam Stephen Jones joined young people involved in guiding the establishment of the centre to unveil the long-awaited space at 172 Shellharbour Road, Warilla.

The Warilla location was chosen to balance the need for the free walk-in services to be accessible but also private.

Grand Pacific Health executive general manager for youth and primary care Jenny Valdivia said having won the tender for both services around the same time, her organisation saw an opportunity to have the services operating in the same space.

“There is an opportunity for us to create those seamless pathways for young people presenting to headspace who potentially need a higher level of support that Medicare Mental Health Centre can provide,” Ms Valdivia said.

“Similarly for people who are in the headspace age range within Medicare Mental Health Centre, they might benefit from that style of support that headspace can provide.

“So the two services will operate as separate services from this building, but there’s a really nice synergy because we’re the same organisation, our staff sit in the same space, and they can create those really nice warm referral pathways between the two services.”

While both services were commissioned by COORDINARE – South Eastern NSW PHN and are operated or provided by Grand Pacific Health, young people, their families and those with lived experience of mental health guided the look and feel of the building right through to how they deliver services in-house.

Shellharbour Medicare Mental Health Centre focuses on those 16 years and older experiencing moderate to severe psychological distress or a mental health crisis who need support.

READ ALSO New Headspace centres and employment initiatives set to slash waitlists and improve access to services

That support will come either in the form of onsite clinical staff or connecting with external service providers that better meet patients’ needs.

Meanwhile, headspace Shellharbour gives those aged 12 to 25 with mild to moderate mental health issues in areas of mental health care, alcohol and other drug treatment, physical or sexual health care or vocational support access to free, confidential youth-friendly services.

“We’ve certainly seen there’s a really big need for headspace services across the Illawarra,” Ms Valdivia said.

“We also operate headspace Wollongong and what we were seeing was up to 20 per cent of our people coming to Wollongong were from this region.”

Mr Jones said he was pleased young people could now access headspace Shellharbour in their region without the need to travel to Wollongong or Nowra, while the Medicare Mental Health Centre meant people could access health services “using their Medicare card, not their credit card”.

Ms McBride agreed, and said she knew receiving help early could reduce the impact of mental ill-health.

“Mental health is as important as physical health, and we are committed to all Australians getting the mental health support they need, wherever they live,” she said.

COORDINARE CEO Prudence Buist said with mental ill-health affecting people from all walks of life, the benefit of the free services was that they didn’t require an appointment or referral.

“Many people in our region will experience a time when they need to reach out for support for themselves, a loved one or a friend,” Ms Buist said.

READ ALSO New mental health hub for kids to provide wraparound services in the Illawarra

“Sometimes, finding the support you need can seem overwhelming.

“Rather than jumping straight into a service that may not suit you, it can be helpful to talk to someone who can guide you to the right service, based on your individual needs and goals – and that’s what the mental health service is designed to do.”

headspace CEO Jason Trethowan said nearly two in five Australians aged 16 to 24 had experienced a mental health disorder in the previous year.

“That’s why the work happening at headspace Shellharbour, and at headspace centres across the country, is so important,” Mr Trethowan said.

“Providing young people with a place where they can get friendly and inclusive mental health services is at the core of all we do at headspace.

“Young people are resilient and, with support from organisations like headspace, they can and do weather tough times to get back on track.”

Shellharbour MP Anna Watson said the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District was working with headspace Shellharbour and Nowra to establish a team of child, adolescent and youth mental health service clinicians to work within headspace Shellharbour to provide better access to specialist care.

“Earlier interventions, improved care pathways and smoother transitions between levels of care will improve health outcomes for young people,” Ms Watson said.

The two services had a soft launch in March and have already had a strong number of referrals coming through.

headspace Shellharbour also received funding from the Australian Government’s national headspace program.

headspace Shellharbour and Shellharbour Medicare Mental Health Centre are at 172 Shellharbour Road, Warilla.

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