Mental health line closure ‘a blow’

Nanjing Night Net

KNOX’S mental health resources will be stretched further by the state government’s decision to close Victoria’s only dedicated 24-hour mental health line, a leading outer east health service claims.

Eastern Ranges GP Association chief executive officer Kristin Michaels said the organisation was disappointed with the government’s decision to close the Mental Health Advice Line.

“There are real access issues for those in the east. They live so far out they can’t physically get to a clinic so the phone line was a good option,” she said.

The line closed on Monday night last week after almost two years in operation because it had not “met expectations”.

Regular callers to the line will now hear a message asking them to contact Nurse-on-Call (1300 606 024), visit the health department’s website or call triple-0.

Figures from the Department of Health in 2010 showed that Victoria’s south and eastern suburbs – including Knox, Maroondah and Yarra Ranges – recorded the second highest number of calls at 22 per cent.

In January last year, the line received about 1117 calls, more than a third of which needed urgent attention.

But the service has been branded a disappointment by the government.

“The Mental Health Advice Line has not met expectations since it started in 2009,” a spokesman for Mental Health Minister Mary Woolridge said.

“Discontinuing the service will help reduce the confusion in the community around the number of telephone lines people can call.”

Ms Michaels said her association had received positive feedback about the advice line and the service was often used by GPs as a secondary consultation.

The service often made a “significant difference” when additional support for mental health patients was needed. “Mental health is not well supported, funded or organised.”