Council steps in to rescue youth mental health program

Tari JeffersManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Manjimup Shire Council has given a vital $20,000 for a youth mental health program to continue.
Camera IconManjimup Shire Council has given a vital $20,000 for a youth mental health program to continue. Credit: Manjimup-Bridgetown Times

A Lower South West youth mental health program will survive due to an emergency $20,000 provided by the Manjimup Shire Council a week before funding ran out.

The 3 Tier Youth Mental Health Program is operated by Blackwood Youth Action Inc. and provides mental health awareness, prevention, intervention and treatment referrals for Year 10 students across six schools in the Warren Blackwood region.

Funding was cancelled late last year and since then BYA, stakeholders and local governments have been lobbying the State Government for more funding.

Introduced as new business of an urgent nature at the Manjimup council meeting on Thursday, councillors voted to grant the program $20,000 for the next six months.

This would allow the service to be provided while lobbying for long-term, ongoing additional State Government funding continues.

Deputy shire president Jayde Darin said the funding meant all the schools that signed up would have a counsellor providing services from the start of the year.

“This is about doing what’s right even though it doesn’t have to be our responsibility,” she said.

“There’s not a single kid in this community that I’m willing to sacrifice, as adults throw this around like a hot potato.” During the council meeting, Cr Wendy Eiby became emotional while talking about the life-saving impact the program had on students in the region.

In 2019 alone, more than 130 students were referred from their GP to individual services as part of the program’s third tier.

“We want our local youths to know that we do care and we’re listening,” Cr Eiby said.

Blackwood Youth Action Inc. chairwoman Dr Sarah Youngson said the organisation was thrilled with the “vital support” provided by the Manjimup Shire Council.

“If the council hadn’t provided the funding, we would have had to cease the service in schools,” she said.

“This funding demonstrates immense support, is hugely valuable and sends a strong message to the State Government.

“We are so, so grateful to the Shire of Manjimup for stepping forward and showing leadership.”

State Mental Health Minister Roger Cook said the program was not funded by the State Government, but by GP down south, through the WA Primary Health Alliance.

“In April 2019, GP down south submitted a funding proposal to the Mental Health Commission for the delivery of the Warren Blackwood program,” he said.

“GP down south was informed it had been unsuccessful and feedback was provided to assist in the preparation of future proposals. The McGowan Government has a strong commitment to providing youth mental health services across Western Australia ... with over $80 million going to the purchase of youth services in 2019/20.”

Manjimup doctor Paul Griffiths said while it was important to address suicide prevention, it was also important to promote healthy mental wellbeing in teenagers.

“I refer into this program almost daily, it is such a solid and quality service,” he said.

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