More avenues for mental health help

Greg Aplin and NSW Minister for Mental Health Jai Rowell inspect the unit at Albury hospital. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICKWODONGA mental health patients needing hospitalisation can now get the help they need on the Border, while others from as far as Wagga could be accessing services in Victoria.

That’s the reality now that mental health services on both sides of the river are operating under the Albury Wodonga Health banner.

While it has been five years since the cross-border amalgamation of Albury Wodonga Health, mental health services were largely offered on a state basis.

But that changed on July 1 with mental health services from the Murrumbidgee Local Health District transferred to Albury Wodonga Health, in line with the amalgamation of Victorian services last year.

It completes the transition to one service.

Albury Wodonga Health’s transition manager Stuart McIntosh said things had gone smoothly, with no disruptions for existing patients.

Albury Wodonga Health’s clinical director of psychiatry Alan England said there was potential now for Victorian patients to be treated at Wagga, where a new care unit had been built, or for Albury residents to be treated at Beechworth’s unit for older patients.

“Before July 1, it meant someone in Wodonga couldn’t access our beds (at Nolan House in Albury) and would have to go all the way to Wangaratta, away from the support of their families and friends,” he said.

Albury MP Greg Aplin and NSW Minister for Mental Health Jai Rowell yesterday visited Albury Wodonga Health’s mental health unit in Albury to see how the amalgamation had worked so far.

“For years I’ve been advocating for the integration of mental health services here in Albury with Albury Wodonga Health,” Mr Aplin said.

“No matter what side of the river you’re on rest assured you will get the services you need.”

Mr Rowell said the service was “a partnership” between the NSW and Victorian governments.

While both governments contributed funds to Albury Wodonga Health, its general hospital services are managed by Victoria, not NSW, and the mental health side would be the same.

“NSW government is providing funds in relation to NSW residents and the Victorian government is doing same,” Mr Rowell said.

“Whatever services are needed, that’s what’s being delivered.”

Mr Rowell and Mr Aplin also reaffirmed the government’s pledge of $3million for the Albury brain health centre, which Victorians would also access.

Consultants have been hired to scout possible locations.

Feedback is expected by November.

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