Seven Mid North councils plan joint health program

LEADERS: Orroroo-Carrieton District Council Mayor Kathie Bowman and council chief executive officer Dylan Strong are keen to see the initiative rolled out in the Mid North.
LEADERS: Orroroo-Carrieton District Council Mayor Kathie Bowman and council chief executive officer Dylan Strong are keen to see the initiative rolled out in the Mid North.

Seven Mid North councils are banding together to set up health and well-being counsellors for an area in desperate need of mental health services.

Last year the chief executive officers and mayors from councils including, Flinders Ranges, Goyder, Peterborough, Mount Remarkable, Northern Areas, Orroroo-Carrieton and Port Pirie discussed mental health services.

Since then, the councils have been in constant contact with Health SA and Primary Industries and Regions SA while lobbying the state government for funding. Orroroo-Carrieton chief executive officer Dylan Strong said councils had information from the health network across the region and found that there was a lack of mental health support.

"What was quite stark was the absence of localised face-to-face support for people in need," he said.

He said many mental health services in the region required clients to report to their doctor before they can access help.

"Our concern was that, although people are seeking help through their doctor, there are significant wait times - up to 12 months to see a qualified psychologist here in the region," he said.

"To add to that, there is an even greater percentage of people who will not reach out for help in the first place."

Flinders University senior psychology lecturer and former family therapist Dr Yvonne Parry said there has been a lack of mental health services in rural communities for a long time.

"If we can can get services to them in a timely manner, they are less likely to develop more serious mental health issues," she said.

Dr Perry said that education about support would reduce stigma.

While there is no set date on the positions being created and filled, it is estimated hiring two counsellors will cost $600,000 during three years.

Council chief executive officer Mr Strong hopes the services can be introduced sooner rather than later.

"It is needed now, not in six months time," he said. "This is the kind of support we need to get onto the ground as quickly as possible."

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