Headspace shake-up as federal changes end GML assistance
 Latrobe Valley News   By // 18:45, Monday 15 June 2015

Local youth health service must find new lead agency, and the future of its Warragul centre is yet to be decided

headspace warragul warragul baw baw citizen by william pj kulich

THE LOCAL branch of youth mental health service headspace is looking for a new lead agency and will be without a receptionist from next month ahead of discussions on its future.

Above: headspace's Warragul location.

First published in the 12 June 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Get your copy from retailers across Baw Baw for free.


The federal government’s decision to turn the Gippsland Medicare Local into the Gippsland Primary Health Network has left headspace Morwell, which services the central and west Gippsland regions, looking for a new funding source.

“The Gippsland Medicare Local will transition to the Gippsland Primary Health Network effective as at the beginning of the new financial year,” GML primary health general manager Jodie Pitkin told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.

“From the beginning of the following financial year, the funding requirements for that primary health network determine that primary health networks can no longer fund organisations or act as lead agencies for organisations where there is a direct service provision relationship.

“So the GML board, which will transition to the Primary Health Network board, has made a decision that they will end their relationship with headspace as it currently stands as at the end of September this year, just to give us a little bit of leeway and to give headspace national office time to put out an expression of interest to find a new lead agency in the Gippsland region.


“That expression of interest process is currently running and will close on 3 July.”

Staff have expressed concerns the Warragul centre would close, especially in light of the recent name change from headspace Central West Gippsland to headspace Morwell. One staff member said the national office “refuses to specifically fund or acknowledge the Warragul headspace site exists.” Ms Pitkin said the name change was a branding issue and the catchment had not changed, however a spokesperson for the national headspace office said the future of the Queen Street centre was yet to be decided.

“Funding for the Warragul site as well as the provision of staff comes directly from the headspace grant that funds headspace Morwell,” the spokesperson told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.

“Decisions about the future of Warragul will be the responsibility of the new lead agency in close collaboration and discussion with [the] headspace national office.

“A decision was made by headspace in 2013 to change headspace centre names nationally to ensure centres were named in accordance with the actual location of the centre – the city or town they are situated in. This is to ensure young people know exactly where to access the headspace centre.”

With the changes in funding, a number of short-term Gippsland headspace contracts will not be renewed and the Warragul centre will be without a receptionist from next month.

“There is currently a receptionist position based there three days a week most of the time. That reception position won’t exist at that site past the end of the financial year,” Ms Pitkin confirmed.

“Nearly all of the headspace staff were contracted until the end of the existing financial year. We’ve been able to negotiate to extend the vast majority of those contracts and have made a decision to end some of those defined short term contracts as of the end of the year.


“We’ve ended the contracts as at the defined end date. The vast majority of staff have had their contracts extended until the end of our relationship with headspace – until the end of September – and some of those staff haven’t.”

Ms Pitkin said the site had, as a “satellite service,” always been appointment only.

One staff member said the national headspace office was not doing enough to support centres in regional areas. The headspace national spokesperson said the national office worked “in partnership with centres… to deliver services at the local level.”

A smooth transition to new hands will be the focus for the GML.

“From our point of view, we’re working more closely with headspace national office than in the past and will continue to do that to make sure there is a successful transition,” Ms Pitkin said.

“There’s a number of other not for profit organisations across Gippsland that would have suitable credentials to apply for, or to submit to become the auspice agency for headspace.

“GML’s primary goal is to make sure we are working with headspace national [and] local staff to make sure we continue to provide and… build our service commitment to young people until the end of Setpember so the new lead agency comes in in what will be a smooth transition and the service level will continue.”

Asked what would happen if no new lead agency was found, Ms Pitkin said:

“Then headspace national will negotiate with us or they will run the service directly.”

Staff have expressed concerns on a number of issues at headspace Morwell, including one person suggesting waiting lists of 10 weeks. That number is incorrect, according to Ms Pitkin.

“Waiting lists vary between programs. There’s none that are up to 10 weeks,” she said.

“The waiting lists depend on the service and their priorities according to need. Someone with higher need will be prioritised over somebody with lower needs.


Intake model review

The GML will be reviewing the intake model of headspace Morwell in coming weeks.

Earlier this week it was expected new intakes would be put on hold from next week while the review was conducted, but it was later decided to keep intake open during the review period.

The review will seek to improve the present model, “which can’t operate effectively ongoing” according to Ms Pitkin.

“I expect that that intake model will be reviewed and implemented in the next couple of weeks.

“This is in order to review the model to ensure the most effective service is being provided to the young people who need it.”

A partial intake closure occurred last week.

“We stopped taking some intakes over the counter last week but we haven’t formally closed intake,” Ms Pitkin said prior to the confirmation the intake would remain open.

Anyone wanting to contact headspace with mental health concerns can click here for centre details.

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