Some of the Glen Innes community's most vulnerable people now have better access to health services.
HealthWISE opened the doors to its new home at the former Glen Innes Examiner offices, 124 Bourke Street, on Tuesday. The organisation provides mental, allied, and Aboriginal health services for people experiencing mild to moderate mental health disorders.
Additional funding from the Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network has enabled the organisation to engage more staff and open the office.
"The funding will allow us to offer services to people in the area who are vulnerable and can't afford to pay for private services," CEO Fiona Strang said.
HealthWISE will employ a second mental health clinician. The organisation has had one mental health clinician in town since 2015, working with Armajun Aboriginal Health Services and providing a fee for service.
The company can also contract a private dietitian, podiatrist, or physiotherapist to deliver additional services clients might not be able to afford.
"We aim to increase access for those people who traditionally miss out, and experience poor health because they're not accessing services at a time when they need them," integrated care manager Anne Williams said.
HealthWISE has also been funded to increase its primary health care nursing service, and hopes to locate a nurse here in Glen Innes.
They also have a contract with the NSW Rural Doctors Network to bring a nephrology (kidney) service to Glen Innes.
"We look at where the gaps are in services, and then work with the Primary Health Network to fund services to fill those gaps," Ms Strang said.
Glen Innes mayor Carol Sparks welcomed the new office, saying there was a high need for the extended services in the community. Elder Rosemary Curtis, who gave the Welcome to Country, said this was a very important service in terms of closing the gap.
HealthWISE staff believe more community members will need mental health services in the wake of the recent devastating bushfires, and during the ongoing drought. Victorian communities devastated by the 2009 Black Saturday fires, for instance, needed substantial support for three or four years afterwards.
HealthWISE promised to remain in the community to support individuals long after the fires have been extinguished and the smoke haze has lifted. They can also bring in mental health and nursing services from other areas when needed.
HealthWISE New England North West serve more than 7500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the region with government funding.
The company replaced New England Medicare Local in July 2015, and has offices across the region, including in Armidale and Tamworth.
Locals can refer themselves to HealthWISE without needing a GP's referral. Doctors and allied health services can, however, also refer patients to HealthWISE.
To learn more about HealthWISE services, including mental health, physio, healthy ageing, and Aboriginal health, visit the HealthWISE website, or call the Glen Innes office on 5733 5308.