Message from the CEO

Medicare Mental Health Centres

As Chief Executive Officer of an organisation whose mission it is to bridge the gap in health equity for country South Australians, it is rewarding to see the improvements Country SA PHN is making to primary health for our communities. A significant part of this improvement is in the area of mental health.

While I think it’s fair to say that as a society, we are more aware of the importance of taking care of our mental health today, than we were in the past - knowing when, where and how to reach out for support remains challenging for many and for some the context of rurality further exacerbates this. The Department of Health and Aged Care’s Head to Health initiative is designed to make accessing mental health support and services easier. Medicare Mental Health Centres (formerly known as Head to Health centres) provide free, walk-in, immediate mental health support. Country SA PHN is currently funding and supporting a Medicare Mental Health Centre in Mount Gambier, provided by FocusOne Health and establishing another in Mount Barker to be delivered by Summit Health.

I am now very pleased to announce that we will be working with Neami National to open a new Medicare Mental Health Centre in Port Pirie.

The Port Pirie Medicare Mental Health Centre will be of tremendous assistance to the people of Port Pirie and surrounds. It will complement existing services, offering free, walk-in mental health support in a safe and welcoming environment. The centre will be staffed by a range of mental health professionals, including clinicians, and peer support workers with their own experiences of mental health challenges and recovery. They will offer caring, inclusive and confidential support for adults who are experiencing distress or are worried about themselves or someone they care about. Additional on-call clinical support will also be available.

By removing traditional barriers to accessing mental health support the Medicare Mental Health Centre model enables people to walk in and get immediate care when they need it with no appointment or referral needed.

The model seeks to address key gaps in the system by:

  • Providing a highly visible and accessible entry point to services for people experiencing psychological distress, where all feel safe and welcomed
  • Offering assessment to match people to the services they need
  • Providing on the spot support, care and advice without needing referral, prior appointments or out of pocket cost. A Medicare card is not required to access supports.
  • Offering short to medium term collaborative care, aimed at improving psychological wellbeing for people, closer to where they live and, whose needs are not being met through other services.

It’s anticipated the Port Pirie Medicare Mental Health Centre will be available to the Port Pirie community by early September 2024 with the Mount Barker centre expected to be operational by the end of the year.

The Head to Health model also offers free, confidential mental health support through the Head to Health Phone Service on 1800 595 212 across South Australia. This is for anyone seeking support for their mental and emotional wellbeing.

Health professionals seeking information on mental health services available in your region or how to refer a patient, can contact the team who will assist in determining the most appropriate referral pathway and level of care for your patients, they will even support referral where required.

The phone service is available between 8.30am and 5pm Monday to Friday and is staffed by mental health professionals. The Head to Health website is also available for support.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our commissioned service providers and the Country SA PHN mental health team who are collaborating to offer these support services for country South Australians.

Please visit our website for further information about Medicare Mental Health Centres and Head to Health support.

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