Four-year win for mental illness

The prevention and recovery care centre being built in Jarrah Street in south Wodonga. Picture: TARA GOONAN
The prevention and recovery care centre being built in Jarrah Street in south Wodonga. Picture: TARA GOONAN

WODONGA’S newest tool in helping people with mental illness will be off to a flying start when it opens in July.

About $7 million was allocated in the Victorian budget to the Wodonga Prevention and Recovery Care unit.

The funds will cover operational costs for the 10-bed unit’s first four years.

The Jarrah Street facility will be managed by North East and Border Mental Health Services.

It will offer adults a short-term, residential environment where they can get support — avoiding the need for admission into hospital, or as a recovery option after clinical treatment.

Though the funding is simply confirmation of funds already anticipated as opposed to “new money”, the body’s recovery and rehabilitation services manager Greg Calder said it was pleasing.

“It means that over the life of the budget cycle, we know we’ve got the operational costs taken care of,” Mr Calder said.

“Our planning is well and truly under way and everything is running on schedule.

“We’re seeing this as a mental health resource for the whole region — it’s a big boost to the community.”

The funding is just a fraction of the $171 million allocated statewide to mental health and drug and alcohol support.

That includes $38 million to tackle the ice epidemic, which the North East is expected to share a significant portion of after being named as an area of priority.

North East patients travelling to Melbourne for treatment will also benefit from the extra $13.8 million over four years to the Victorian Patient Transport Assistance Scheme.

Anyone travelling long distances for medical appointments will have access to higher petrol and accommodation rebates.

Border oncologist Craig Underhill welcomed the news, given the number of patients still having to travel for cancer treatment until the regional cancer centre is built in Albury.

Dr Underhill said he regularly heard stories of patients delaying or avoiding treatment because of the time and expense involved.

“Doctors across the state will applaud this move if it helps ensure Victorians have better access to the best possible medical care — no matter where they live and no matter how much they earn,” he said.

The government has invested $1.4 billion in health statewide, including an extra $45.5 million for elective surgery.

The regional items were the $73 million Latrobe Regional Hospital redevelopment, $28 million to Barwon Health-North, and $14 million for the Boort Health Service.