Connections in Far West program a finalist in NSW Health Awards

Far West Local Health District is celebrating its Connections in the Far West Program reaching the finals of the 2020 NSW Health Awards – a year dominated by extraordinary events including the response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Connections in the Far West program is a finalist in the Excellence in the Provision of Mental Health Services category of the NSW Health Awards.

Connections is a collaborative project between Far West LHD and Mission Australia which partnered with consumers, family and carer groups to co-design the program. The program sought to address the problem of access to out-of-hours health services, which can be a challenge in Broken Hill, causing many people to reach out to crisis care and emergency services.

In its first year, the project resulted in savings of 354 bed days ($760,207), as reported by NSW Health. Not only has the service reduced numbers of people presenting to hospital, but feedback from other service providers and participants continues to be extremely positive.

Reaching the finals in the NSW Health Awards is deserved recognition for everyone involved in the Connections program, said Chelsea Edwards, Manager of Consumer and Carer Engagement, Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Services, Far West LHD.

‘We are exceptionally proud of the success of the Connections Program. Being finalists in this award in the ‘Excellence in the Provision of Mental Health Services’ category is an outstanding achievement for the team who run Connections. It really is great to see passionate and hardworking people recognised for the exceptional work they do.”

“This program really is the product of a strong collaborative partnership between the LHD and Mission Australia. We should acknowledge all the hard work of past contributors to the program from the LHD and Mission Australia.

Jodie Miller, Program Director Mental Health for the Far West LHD said the project has had a multitude of unexpected benefits. “Not only for mental health consumer outcomes but positive impacts and opportunities that have seen our peer workforce go on to achieve great personal success, we are so proud of everyone that has contributed, What a great way to showcase our community,” she said.

Jenna Bottrell, Acting Area Manager, Mission Australia, said: “We are so grateful to be recognised for the work we do alongside the Far West LHD in Broken Hill. It is a great example of how maintaining strong partnerships between organisations can be a successful way of meeting local need and ensuring those experiencing loneliness in the community are supported.

“We know that 2020 has been a challenging year for many, and our peer support workers have continued to adapt to provide high quality support to locals feeling isolated or experiencing mental health challenges. We are pleased to be playing an important role in strengthening the wellbeing of our community, intervening early by assisting locals to remain actively connected with others and develop resilience.”

Far West LHD is competing in its category against projects from Western NSW LHD (Mental Health in the Home: A New Approach in a Pandemic) and Northern Sydney LHD (Reducing Time in Seclusion in the Mental Health Intensive Care Unit)

Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said the circumstances of the past year made it more important than ever to acknowledge the achievements of health staff in NSW.

“I extend my wholehearted gratitude to every health staff member during this most difficult time, and I know the people of NSW do too,” Minister Hazzard said.

“This year our health family has been through bushfires, floods, drought, and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, and has done a fantastic job in the face of these enormous challenges.”

This year’s finalists and winners were celebrated on digital and social channels, in another recognition of the extraordinary nature of 2020.

There were 19 finalists from 14 state-wide health entities competing for 10 award categories.

The NSW Health Awards recognise innovative and sustainable health programs that deliver outcomes that matter to patients and invest in the wellness of the NSW community.

Far West LHD will be cheering for the Connections program team in the awards and wish all the best to all the other finalists.

The NSW Government has committed $800 million extra funding over two years on top of the 2019-20 Health Budget of $26.7 billion to help boost ICU capacity and purchase additional services and medical equipment, to help respond to COVID-19.




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