$670,000 to support mental health of aged care residents in Geelong Otway

Media release

A new injection of funding will help improve the mental health and wellbeing of aged care residents in the Geelong Otway region.

The Commonwealth government has allocated $670,000 to extend Psychological Therapy Services (PTS) into residential aged care facilities (RACFs), such as Hesse Rural Health’s Hesse Lodge in Winchelsea. Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN) has engaged Better Place Australia and APMHA Healthcare Limited to deliver this service enabling greater access to mental health clinicians in the Geelong Otway region until June 2022.

This new mental health support service will provide short-term focused (12 month) psychological therapy to residents with a diagnosable mental illness or to residents who have attempted, or are at risk of, suicide or self-harm.

WVPHN Chief Executive Officer Rowena Clift said the extension of PTS into RACFs recognises the significant needs of older people residing in residential aged care facilities and are designed to extend services into these facilities and make services far more accessible.

“Western Victoria PHN has a strong focus on working with community and health care services to directly respond to local mental health needs,” Ms Clift said. “With evidence from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2015) estimating that approximately 39 per cent of all permanent aged care residents are living with mild to moderate depression, we want to help these people as much as possible, especially when recovering from the effects of the pandemic.”

“To have a mental health clinician be able to visit an aged care resident makes accessing this support easier for the patients and complements the care already delivered by the aged care workforce.”

Providing greater access to mental health support for aged care residents at Hesse Lodge in Winchelsea. Pictured (from left to right): Margie McLeod – Director of Clinical Services Hesse Rural Health, Rowena Clift – CEO Western Victoria PHN, Shirley Roeszler – resident at Hesse Lodge, Serge Sardo – CEO Better Places Australia, Rhonda Withers – Clinical and Program Lead Elder Services Better Places Australia and Carissa Brock – CEO Hesse Rural Health.

Requests for the service can come from the resident, family and friends, aged care assessment team or RACF staff. A GP, registered nurse, psychiatrist or psychologist can then refer the resident into the program. This program is known as a Psychological Therapy Service (PTS): a treatment service designed to provide better access to mental health support, particularly for people who face barriers using mainstream treatment due to low income, living in a rural or remote location, or are hard –to reach, such as residents in aged care facilities.

“The recent Aged Care Royal Commission final report highlighted the limited access aged care residents have to mental health support, with mental health conditions not being adequately addressed,” Ms Clift said. “WVPHN is pleased to be addressing this need and supports the recommendations of the report.”

“This is part of our on-going effort to ensure anyone in our community with mental illness receives the right care in the right place at the right time,” Ms Clift said.

Better Place Australia CEO Serge Sardo said: “This program is much needed by residents of aged care facilities. From our work in other regions, we are finding that the impact of social isolation caused by COVID-19 restrictions has been very distressing for residents. Symptoms of anxiety and depression are increasingly being seen. We would like to thank WVPHN for their foresight and commitment in making such an essential support available to residents of aged care facilities in the Geelong Otway region. We would urge Facility Managers or GPs to contact Rhonda Withers of Better Place Australia on 03 9556 5333 or via email rhonda.withers@betterplace.com.au if they are aware of residents who would benefit from this invaluable program.”

Hesse Rural Health Director of Clinical Services Margie McLeod said: ““We are very excited to be able to offer psychological services through Better Place Australia to our aged care residents. This is an important and much needed referral pathway that will support each individual’s mental health needs. “

APMHA Healthcare CEO Renee Hayden said: “We are very excited to continue our involvement in the PTS in RACFs program across western Victoria. This program recognises the unique needs of people with mental illness residing in aged care facilities. It will support a client group directly impacted by challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. APMHA Healthcare Limited, and our partnering organisations, witnessed firsthand the need and benefit for this service during our involvement in the pilot program and we are grateful to be able to continue to support RACFs beyond it”.

All PTS services are to be provided by accredited mental health professionals, who are operating within their scope of practice, including mental health nurses, psychologists (Registered or Clinical), mental health occupational therapists, social workers (mental health) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners.