• Tony Bosworth

Hawkesbury heads to health with new Pop-Ups

The Hawkesbury finally has a dedicated public mental health service for people who are feeling the strain from lockdowns and COVID threats, with the arrival of a new team as part of a free government-funded service.

Mental health clinicians Debbie Idahosa (left), Eliza Buckley and Hayley Trotter (second from right and right) with Dr Philip Chen and MP Susan Templeman at the Hawkesbury Head to Health site

Head To Health is a national COVID initiative to help people with their mental well-being and has recently started face-to-face appointments in the Hawkesbury after beginning remote operations last September.

Head to Health Pop Ups are smaller versions of the eight Head to Health Centres being set up nationally. They can “pop up” in areas with increased need of mental health support.

First opened in Penrith during lockdown, the Pop Up service has now moved to the Hawkesbury since the Penrith Head to Health Centre, the first centre in NSW, opened on December 1.

Wentworth Healthcare, the provider of the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network, has worked to establish both the Head to Health Pop Up service and the Penrith Head to Health Centre locally.

Macquarie MP Susan Templeman, who has been pushing hard for a long time for a Headspace mental health support hub in the Hawkesbury, has welcomed Head to Health.

“This is what’s called a “no wrong door” approach – you don’t need a referral from anyone, and it doesn’t matter what age you are,” said the MP.

“You might need just a few conversations, or more intense ongoing support. Head to Health is designed to support you, whatever the need.”

“During lockdowns, the service has only been by phone, but face-to-face consultations can now be arranged thanks to Dr Philip Chen making space available in his Richmond clinic.

“It isn’t a walk-in service, and the first step is to contact Head to Health over the phone on 1800 595 212.

“I am pleased that the team has been able to operate out of Dr Chen’s medical centre.

“It must be emphasised that walk-in services won’t be available until a stand-alone site is found in the new year, and right now you will need an appointment to have a face-to-face chat.”

The Head to Health phone number operates Monday to Friday between 8:30am to 5pm.

When calling, people are asked to enter their residential postcode and are transferred to a local, trained mental health professional, who will talk to them about their concerns and help guide them to the right mental health support for their individual needs.

Wentworth Healthcare – who run healthcare through the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network - has set-up both the Head to Health Pop Up service and the Penrith Head to Health Centre.

Wentworth Healthcare CEO, Ms Lizz Reay said, “Both the Hawkesbury Pop Up service and Penrith Centre have been set up to be integrated with existing mental health services in our local area, with the additional support of mental health clinicians available at both services. These clinicians can provide mental health care, through telehealth or COVID-safe face-to-face appointments, without the long waiting lists some people may experiencing to see local clinicians,” she said.

“Both services are free for anyone of any age, including children, young people and older adults, whose mental health is suffering and may have been made worse because of the current COVID-19 situation. No GP referral is needed,” said Ms Reay.

Ms Templeman thanked the Primary Health Network for continuing to find ways to improve access to mental health services and urged local residents to seek support if they needed it.

“Whether you’re trying to improve your own well-being, helping someone else, or if you just need a hand with something that’s bothering you, Head to Health is a great place to start,” Ms Templeman said.

“It’s as easy as a phone call, but that one phone call may put you on a path to feeling a lot better.”

For more details, visit www.nbmphn.com.au/H2HPopUp where you can download a Community Flyer and FAQ fact sheet.

The Penrith Head to Health Centre is at 111 Henry Street and is open 365 days a year, including public holidays, for walk-in support, without the need for an appointment.

The Penrith Centre is open from 1pm to 9:30pm every day, except Tuesdays when it is open from 1pm to 5pm.

The Penrith Centre will be open over the Christmas and New Year holidays, for anyone experiencing emotional distress and crisis.

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