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Country mental health support beyond the pandemic

06-10-2020 Category: General Posted by: emily.roberts

Image: Marathon Health staff – Chris McAlister (Portfolio Manager of Mental Health), Tammy Orreal (Mental Health Clinician), Jenna Dolbel (Mental Health Clinician).

There has never been a more important time for mental health support available through local clinicians across a range of platforms. The expansion of Medicare rebates to include telehealth mental health support until March 2021, has been a much-needed lifeline for country Australians.  

Chris McAlister, Marathon Health Portfolio Manager of Mental Health, says moving beyond the pandemic, ensuring country Australians have access to a combination of local mental health service delivery models, will be a priority for the charity.

“Providing local support is a great comfort for clients, as our clinicians understand the community and can tailor support options. Combining this with the option to access support over the phone, in-person or online (or a combination of all) empowers people to reach out when they need to,” Mr McAlister said.

More than 60% of Marathon Health’s work is in the mental health space and the not-for-profit is one of the largest providers of headspace services in Australia, with seven centres across regional NSW and the ACT. This provides a unique experience into a combination of service delivery models that cover both country and metropolitan settings.

One consistency across both areas, is an inability to access mental health support when and as people need it. The telehealth mental health model supported with Medicare rebates during the pandemic, provided a great step toward removing barriers to timely support.

“People with mental ill health should not be blocked from seeking treatment by barriers such as the need for a diagnosis, a mental health treatment plan or a limit on the number of sessions they are entitled to.

“Recognising you need support can be difficult in itself, so going forward beyond the pandemic – the next step shouldn’t be more complicated than a phone call or an email to a service provider for treatment,” Mr McAlister said.

Low-intensity supports are also proving valuable, particularly models like NewAccess, introduced across a number of the not-for-profits operating regions for situations ranging from drought and bushfire support, to just needing a plan to manage thoughts and emotions.  

“We also work in partnership with other organisations to deliver collaborative and innovative programs, that ultimately have a better impact for local communities. It takes a united approach to mental health care to ensure we reach the people who need it,” Mr McAlister said.

In the 2019/20 financial year, Marathon Health delivered over 22,660 occasions of mental health support services.
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