Commissioner does a mental health check

NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley visited services in the Shoalhaven on Thursday and Friday to get a feel for local mental health needs.

VISITOR: Oolong House clinical director Martin Billingham, chief executive officer Ivern Ardler and board of directors chair Raymond Moyle welcome NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley to Oolong House on Thursday.

On Thursday, Mr Feneley stopped by drug and alcohol residential treatment service Oolong House in Junction Street and today, Friday, will tour the hospital’s sub-acute mental health unit.

At Oolong House on Thursday Mr Feneley said the commission was set up in 2012 and its job was to look at driving improvement in mental health services across the state.

“Our major job was developing a strategic plan for mental health reform,” he said.

That strategic plan has been completed and submitted to the government for consideration.

“As NSW is so big, it’s essential to get out and familiarise myself with services,” Mr Feneley said.

“Being here and seeing the work being done is fantastic for keeping us informed and to get a sense of local needs.”

While it was too early to define exactly what those needs were, Mr Feneley said he was impressed by the level of connection between services in the Shoalhaven and the desire to keep people healthy within the community.

“What’s really important down here is the sense of connectedness [between services],” he said.

“A major part of reform is making it about community – not hospitals.”

He said while hospitals might be needed in the short term or for emergencies, it was important people with mental health issues were able to live in community.

Oolong House chief executive officer Ivern Ardler was impressed by the commissioner’s visit.

“It was good for us to know about the new commission and have the commissioner taking an interest,” he said.

Mr Ardler said he’d studied parts of the commission and looked forward to the challenges it presented for services like Oolong House.

“I hope we can show that we’re a worthy service to continue funding,” he said.

Oolong House is a 21-bed, 24-hour seven-day a week residential facility for indigenous and non-indigenous men over 18 with mental health concerns and a drug or alcohol problem.

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