THREE headspace offices in the Central West will share in $1.97 million to help improve the mental health of young people in the region.
Member for Calare Andrew Gee announced on Tuesday that the funding would be used by the Western NSW Primary Health Network to employ youth advocates for the Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo headspace offices.
He said the proposal was received after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, following increased demand for mental health services.
The funding was allocated in the latest federal government budget.
Mr Gee said it will ensure young people get the support they need during this particularly challenging time.
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"It will be very helpful for the region, enormously helpful, and will make a real difference to the lives of young people living in our area," he said.
"It's $1.97 million in the last budget to support this new program, which will go right throughout the region from Orange to Bathurst and also Dubbo.
"The funding will support two new peer support workers in each location, which will make a real difference to the lives of young people."
Bathurst headspace centre manager Jason Eggins said the specifics around how the program will run are yet to be determined, however he has confidence it will be beneficial to headspace clients, who are aged 12 to 25 years.
Young people will have the opportunity to speak to the peer workers, who will be able to share their own lived experience to help clients in conjunction with clinical expertise.
Mr Eggins said that lived experience was often enough for a peer worker to provide significant support.
"It's early stages, we're not quite sure what our peer worker qualifications [will be]; quite often also, based on other rollouts of peer workers through clinical settings, lived experience is quite enough," he said.
There has been a significant increase in both the volume and complexity of cases coming into headspace.
Young people are facing disruption to their studies, work life, relationships and future goals as a result of the pandemic.
Senior youth care coordinator for headspace Bathurst, Sarah Dick, said the peer workers will be helpful to both clinicians and clients.
"Peer support workers will be really quite helpful for us clinicians," she said.
"I think that they will really be able to provide quite a lot of normalisation and validation around mental health issues for young people in our community, just giving those young people the knowledge that they are not alone in what they are going through."
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