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  • Rural and remote mental health recommendations supported by peak body

    Author: Nicole Madigan

COVID-19 has impacted the mental health of all Australians, but perhaps none more so that those living in remote and rural areas of Australia, where access to mental health services is limited.

The House Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention has recently released its Final Report, including recommendations to improve access to services for people in rural and remote Australia.

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The Committee’s recommendations included that the Australian Government leverage the existing
Australian Rural Health Education Network by providing funding for clinical placements in regional, rural and remote university clinics and using these clinics to trial multi-disciplinary, hybrid mental health hubs that integrate digital services and face to face services.

This recommendation was welcomed by The Australian Rural Health Education Network (ARHEN), is the national association and peak body for the 16 University Departments based in rural and remote locations across Australia.

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Christine Howard, Chair of ARHEN, commended the Committee’s strong support for the University Departments of Rural Health and their role in building and supporting the rural and remote health workforce and services.

“For more than twenty years the University Departments of Rural Health have been training health students from a range of allied health disciplines such as nursing, occupational therapy, psychology and pharmacy to work in rural and remote locations,” Ms Howard said.

“With appropriate additional resourcing our rurally-based university campuses would be well-placed to deliver on the Committee’s recommendation to trial mental health clinics and hubs which may offer a mix of digital and face to face services for people in rural and remote regions.”

Ms Howard said the COVID-19 pandemic had meant many of AHERN’s university centres had transitioned to hybrid service delivery and therefore had the digital infrastructure and skills to take such a proposal to scale in their regions.

“This would help to address local gaps in mental health service delivery and ease the pressure on existing services as well as building the skills and capabilities of health students and rural health professionals.

“The University Departments of Rural Health have strong working relationships with their local health services and community-based organisations and are experienced in co-designing services to meet local needs, including working with Indigenous communities and services.”

Ms Howard said ARHEN was grateful to the Committee for its deliberations and stood ready to support the Australian Government with the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations in rural and remote Australia.

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.