The head of the Murrumbidgee Local Health District has promised a mental health unit for Griffith Base Hospital.
MLHD chief executive Jill Ludford said the NSW government would build a short stay unit for mental health patients over the age of 16 years as part of the $250 million Griffith Base redevelopment.
Ms Ludford expects the unit to be operational in 2025 and said it would be supported via telehealth by staff from Wagga, currently home to the only mental health unit in the Murrumbidgee.
Ms Ludford said the new unit would cater for people who "would benefit from a short period of reassuring inpatient care", but not for patients who require an acute mental health admission.
Wagga Base Hospital will remain home to the region's acute mental health inpatient unit.
Ms Ludford said the new Griffith unit would complement the city's Community Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Service, which she said was run by 30 full-time equivalent clinicians who care for patients of all ages.
Speaking to media on November 24, Ms Ludford said the MLHD had no plans to build a mental health inpatient unit at Griffith Base Hospital, partly because of the need to cohort specialist staff in Wagga.
She also said any suicide or loss of life was an extraordinary tragedy but mental wellbeing was not just the responsibility of health services.
Ms Ludford has since issued a statement to The Area News outlining the proposed mental health unit at Griffith Base.
Goolgowi's Marie Clarke has been championing a push for more mental health services in her town and in Griffith after a spate of suicides in the area in the past 12 months.
Ms Clarke, who is hoping to attract a clinician to Goolgowi to provide outreach counselling, said health services needed to be available to support communities.
"There's only so much a community can do for people. Community aren't qualified to help people when they're in crisis. We can help them to support them, but we can't actually fix them," she said.
"I'd like to know where [the clinicians] are. Because there's been so many people who have said to me, there's been no one there for them when they've needed it," she said.
State Member for Murray Helen Dalton welcomed the plans for Griffith Base Hospital.
"People have come into [my] office really concerned. It's not the silver bullet but it's the beginning of the change. If we can get the mental health unit up and running at the hospital it's a start," she said.
Mrs Dalton claimed some people in the Griffith region had to wait "200 days" to see a psychologist.
NSW minister for mental health, regional youth and women Bronnie Taylor said Griffith's mental health unit was an important step for the Murrumbidgee.
"The Griffith Base redevelopment is another key step towards ensuring specialist recovery-focused mental health services are in place to meet both the emerging and existing needs of the region," she said.
If you need support or are struggling with mental illness, please contact any of these crisis support helplines:
- Lifeline: 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
- Kids Helpline (for people aged 5-25 years): 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelpline.com.au
- Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 www.beyondblue.org.au
- If you are in the Murrumbidgee, you can use this free online resource to locate services: mapmyrecovery.org.au OR call AccessLine: 1800 800 944