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Mental health and homelessness pilot launched in Geelong

Mental health and homelessness pilot launched in Geelong

Mental health and homelessness pilot launched in Geelong

18 December 2020

From left: James Merlino (Deputy Premier and Ministry for Mental Health), Debra Little (AOD Specialist for The Salvation Army), Vicki McGrath (Care and Recovery Case Worker), Steve Moylan (Clinical Director of Mental Health, Drugs and Alcohol Services with Barwon Health) and Darren Cheeseman (Member for South Barwon).

By Jessica Morris

A pilot program addressing mental illness and homelessness has been launched in Geelong, in partnership with The Salvation Army, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and health care provider Barwon Health.

Kathryn Wright (General Manager of AOD Services with The Salvation Army) thanks Deputy Premier James Merlino and guests for attending the opening of The Accommodation and Psychosocial Supports (AAPS) Program Barwon, after they received a tour of one of the housing units in Geelong.

The Accommodation and Psychosocial Supports (AAPS) Program Barwon, run by The Salvation Army AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs) and Mental Health Services Barwon, will provide four refurbished units as transitional accommodation. Two people will live in each unit for three months at a time, allowing up to 32 people a year to use the transitional housing after exiting pivotal psychiatric care services across the Barwon region.

The new program will focus on connecting people with psychosocial supports so they can address the risk of homelessness and a range of life issues, creating sustainable change when they exit.

“The Salvation Army is delighted to have the opportunity to work with people in the Barwon area, who are leaving acute mental health services and are at risk of homelessness, to make positive and lasting changes in their lives,” said Kathryn Wright, General Manager of AOD Services with The Salvation Army.

“Together with our partners – DHHS and Barwon Health – we will support people to carve out a positive path in life and develop the tools needed for a bright and stable future.”  

The Honourable Deputy Premier and Minister for Mental Health James Merlino attended the event, saying that, “people with a severe mental illness experiencing homelessness must be a priority group”.

“We know up to 20 per cent of clients in the clinical mental health system do not live in stable housing. We are trying to address that in a number of ways, and this great partnership between Barwon Health and The Salvation Army is a wonderful example of what more we can do,” he said.

Geelong currently has the second-highest homelessness rate in Victoria, with many vulnerable people also experiencing mental health issues. The pilot program will play a vital role in allowing people to re-enter society once they have received psychiatric help and are on the journey to healing.

“I truly want to thank The Salvation Army for their partnership in this initiative, and truly the leadership they have shown over so many years in this space supporting experiencing homelessness and unstable housing,” said Steve Moylan, Clinical Director of Mental Health, Drugs and Alcohol Services with Barwon Health.

“The work you do is so important, and we feel really privileged to partner with you.”

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