NOT HAPPY: LNP Health spokeswoman Ros Bates and Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar say mental health services are lacking in our region.
NOT HAPPY: LNP Health spokeswoman Ros Bates and Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar say mental health services are lacking in our region. Contributed

Greater services needed

MENTAL health - it's the topic on everyone's mind in the Central Highlands at the moment.

It was also one of the primary focuses for LNP state health spokeswoman Ros Bates when she visited the region earlier this week.

Ms Bates, a former registered nurse, said mental health was "a huge issue”, particularly in rural, regional and remote Queensland.

"I'm old enough unfortunately to remember when they got rid of asylums and all of the mental health services were put out in the community, which was much-needed at the time,” she said.

"The problem is those services are not available in the community and people are falling through the cracks.

"We're seeing an increase in mental health conditions across the spectrum, particularly suicide in the rural, regional and remote areas because of isolation, droughts, floods - all of those issues that you don't see as much of in the cities.”

"... Those services for people to reach out aren't there either.”

Ms Bates said the government needed to look at introducing "step up, step down mental health facilities” across rural and remote regions.

"What we're seeing is mental health patients flooding into our (emergency) departments, who are not necessarily high risk that need to be admitted into a facility inside a general hospital, but they need help and there is nowhere for them to go,” she said.

"... It doesn't matter where I go, the services that are supposed to be in the community are not there.

"If you had a step up, step down mental health facility, it would take pressure off the ED departments.

"You would be able to have people go somewhere where they didn't feel they were stigmatised and also, you could run community outreach programs from a facility like that.”

Ms Bates agreed a Headspace facility was a possible solution and said the organisation needed to approach Health Minister Steven Miles.

"He (Mr Miles) is the one who holds the budget strings for the HHS (Hospital and Health Services),” she said.

"He will use 'the dog ate my homework' excuse and blame everyone else for funding shortfalls, but the reality is the minister can direct... the HHS to provide services to the community.”

Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar said the government "definitely need” to bring mental health facilities like Headspace to the Central Highlands.

"We definitely have mental health issues in rural and regional areas,” he said.

"In fact, mental health issues per population can sometimes be greater in rural and remote areas because we don't have the services or the ability to be able to understand the issue or get people the treatment they need.”

Mr Millar said while any suicide was "more than you want”, communities needed the capacity to treat mental health issues.

"I guess I'm calling on the Health Minister, Steven Miles, to get off his backside and get out here and start understanding what rural and remote areas are facing when it comes to Headspace and when it comes to mental illness,” he said. "We don't really have the capability at the moment to be able to seek the treatment that we need in an urgent response.

"The closest area really when it comes to all the facilities you need to treat depression and people who are contemplating suicide are in Rockhampton.

"That's 300km away.”

Health minister says Palaszczuk Govt supports mental health

MINISTER for Health Steven Miles has refuted claims from LNP Shadow Minister for Health Ros Bates there are "funding shortfalls” for mental health services in Central Queensland.

Mr Miles said the Palaszczuk Government was investing heavily in services to improve the mental health and wellbeing of people living in Central Queensland and right across the state.

"In this year's budget alone, we have committed almost $4.4 million for community mental health treatment services in the region,” he said.

"This is in addition to the $162,000 we provide annually to support the early detection and treatment of mental illness affecting school-aged children and young people.”

Mr Miles said the Palaszczuk Government was the first government to ever open a step up, step down facility in Queensland.

"Since being elected we've invested in five step up, step down facilities across the state, and we have more in the planning,” he said.

"When the LNP were in government, they cut $45 million from mental health in their first year in office.

"It was the first time mental health spending has ever been cut in Queensland and the biggest cut ever made by a state or territory government.

"Ros Bates was part of this government and should be ashamed for this devastating legacy.”

Mr Miles said Ms Bates and Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar should approach the Federal Government with concerns.

"(They) should be lobbying their mates in Canberra to increase funding to primary healthcare services including mental health support and counselling.

"In fact, funding for Headspace is a Federal Government responsibility, so they should ask Scott Morrison why Emerald has missed out.”