A community support service in Broken Hill has helped dozens of people avoid hospital and transition back into the community.
The Far West Mental Health Recovery Centre, which began operating in March 2013, supports locals experiencing a range of mental health issues with the aim of preventing crisis and supporting long-term recovery. The Far West Recovery Centre has already supported nearly 200 people and provided major social and economic benefits to the community and health system.
This is a partnership between Neami National and the Far West Local Health District, covering a staggering 90,000 km2 across outback New South Wales – an area larger than Ireland.
It was established to address a shortage of inpatient beds at Broken Hill Base Hospital. It also aims to reduce patient transfers to the nearest psychiatric hospital in Orange, a one-and-a-half hour flight or 10-hour drive from Broken Hill.
The centre, which offers a self-referral system as well as direct community admissions, saw 183 admissions involving 126 people between March 2013 and March 2015. It has helped reduce demand for inpatient services, with their capacity falling from nearly 90% in July 2013 to around 62% in July 2014. 
Neami National CEO, Arthur Papakotsias, said ‘The service model we are operating with our partners in Broken Hill, along with similar services in Dubbo and Perth, offer regional communities and health systems something special. It is both a more cost-effective way to provide the necessary care and support to people and it also reduces the trauma and level of crisis that each person has to endure before help is provided. The unit bed cost at Broken Hill is half of a local psychiatric hospital bed and we have also seen around $200,000 saved in reduced usage of the Royal Flying Doctors Service for transfers.’
Other centre outcomes have included:
- A reduction in 28-day mental health re-admission rates to the inpatient psychiatric ward. Rates are now below the NSW benchmark of 13% for the 2013/14 financial year.
- Almost 75% of Recovery Centre clients have only used the service once with 14% coming back a second time, 6% for a third time and just under 5% of consumers have re-entered between four and seven times.
The 10-bed centre offers short-term support of up to six weeks. It provides local jobs and represents a major innovation in mental health care in the rural environment. The centre is not a replacement for hospital but is an option that can prevent the need for hospitalisation when people are aware they are becoming unwell.
For more information about the Far West Mental Health Recovery Centre visit www.neaminational.org.au/FWMHRC
 Figures current July 2014.