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Mental Health program helps reduce patient risk

Mental Health HARP Team outside the Emergency Department

Mental Health HARP Team outside the Emergency Department

Tracy*, a mother of two, has broken a long term cycle of substance abuse and reduced her hospital admissions thanks to a new program. 

She is one of 15 who have become part of the newly established Mental Health Hospital Admission Reduction Program (HARP) since it began in July this year. 

Tracy has a borderline personality disorder and a history of long term substance abuse. Her battle with drugs and alcohol has led her to being admitted to Frankston Hospital dozens of times. 

In 2012/13 over 90,000 face to face appointments, home visits and phone contacts took place through the hospital’s Mental Health Service avoiding hospital-based care and creating more beds for those with more critical needs.

The Mental Health HARP is one of Peninsula Health’s newest programs providing support to individuals with mental health issues to help reduce their Emergency Department visits. The program targets those who frequently present to Frankston and Rosebud Hospital Emergency Departments and have difficulty accessing and engaging with other service providers such as mental health services offered by Peninsula Health, GPs, homelessness services, drug and alcohol services and other community based services.

The new program has received close to $2.5 million in funding from the Department of Health over four years as part of the Supporting National Mental Health Reform project and is run in partnership with the Mental Illness Fellowship.

Mental Health HARP Team Leader Allira Ritchie says that the program is important for helping those with metal health issues break their cycles of repeated hospital presentations and to manage their needs in more beneficial and supportive ways outside of hospital admission. 

“Many of the people we assist will have complex health needs outside of their mental health issues stemming from problems with their physical health, substance use and lack of social supports.

“Our service takes a recovery-orientated approach where we work intensively alongside clients for up to six months. In this time frame we work with them to build their capability to self-manage their complex issues, help them gain access to long term support to stabilise their mental health and improve their condition and their circumstances,” said Allira.

Tracy said that her long term mental health and substance issues have had a big impact on her life and wellbeing. 

“Over the last 10 years I have actually died over 20 times as the result of overdoses and mixing medication with alcohol. I never did it on purpose, I just didn’t realise I’d taken too much. 

“Since I’ve been battling with prescription medication and alcohol and have been in hospital more times than I can count. 

“My substance abuse and constant admissions to hospital and has really affected my life and my family in a big way. In the end I ended up losing custody of my kids which was a big wake up call,” said Tracy. 

When the team from Mental Health HARP got in contact with Tracy she said it changed her life. 

“I knew that I needed extra help and an alternative to what I had tried before but had always been a bit disillusioned with the health system. 

“When I heard about Mental Health HARP I thought it was a great idea. My caseworker Cathy has been fantastic. She is so warm and caring and has given me hope,” said Tracy. 

One of the programs Cathy helped connect Tania to help her manage her health issues is the Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) program. 

“DBT is a group and individual based therapy which aims to help reduce self-harming behaviour and improve independent management of stress and crisis,” said Cathy Mandile, Tracy’s Mental Health HARP Counsellor from the Mental Illness Fellowship.

“The DBT program has really helped me and given me a lot of support in managing my problems,” said Tracy.

“I’m still in early days yet but I want to stay out of hospital at all costs for my children’s sake. This is something I probably wouldn’t have been able to do that without Cathy and the Mental Health HARP team,” said Tracy.

*name changed to protect clients identity