Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) Director of Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol, Dr Richard Buss, said the Clarence Valley community had been deeply affected by recent tragic losses, with a number of agencies across the Clarence Valley coming together to discuss this complex issue and consider what could be done to avoid these tragedies.
“I would like to acknowledge the work done by Ms Giane Smajstr, Community Development Officer for Clarence Valley Council, who began coordinating a number of meetings aimed at considering ways of supporting vulnerable individuals and their families by promoting a greater sense of social connectedness within the community,” Dr Buss said.
“The initial meetings attracted a range of local agencies from the health, Aboriginal and welfare sectors, and became a platform to invite input from other larger agencies including representatives from the NNSW LHD, Primary Health Network (PHN), Aboriginal Medical Services and the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health (CRRMH).
Dr Buss said a forum of local agencies held last week welcomed guest Professor David Perkins Director CRRMH, based in Orange NSW.
“The commitment of agencies to work together to find sustainable solutions was evident with highly motivated and committed representatives attending the meeting,” Dr Buss said.
“Professor Perkins provided his knowledge and insights into strategies for improving protective factors against individual social isolation and promoting community resilience and support.”
The forum became a very open and robust discussion covering a range of issues with some emerging themes:
- That evidenced based, preventative strategies have been shown to have significant positive impact of social connectedness in rural and regional communities across Australia; and
- That there were many structures, bodies and groups within the community who are not traditionally aligned with health promotion activities, who are likely willing participants and have a role to play in an all of community strategy.
Dr Buss said the forum felt strongly that the momentum needed to continue, with Professor Perkins recommending the services of Robyn Considine, an Associate of the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health and Conjoint Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Newcastle.
Ms Considine has extensive project management experience and has undertaken consultancies on a local, state and national level. She has extensive experience in combining service delivery and research to improve evidence based service delivery within mental health.
Ms Considine will next week commence community consultations to determine the level of structural resources and associated opportunities within the Clarence Valley, and then develop a Report to be reviewed and discussed at a facilitated community workshop to build a localised and planned strategy for mental health services within the Clarence Valley.
“It was an honour to be invited along to facilitate this important and emerging forum and I am confident that, with the assistance of research and consultation, the Clarence Valley community has the motivation and ability to make a significant difference to the emotional well-being and resilience of communities within the Clarence Valley,” Dr Buss said.
Dr Buss said Ms Considine will be based in Grafton for several weeks. Community groups and individuals who wish to contribute to the consultation are invited to contact NNSW LHD Mental Health Services on (02) 6620 2623 to register their interest to meet with Ms Considine.
These appointments will be held in various locations across the Clarence Valley. Ms Considine will also make contact with community groups over the next few weeks.