EASTERN Melbourne Primary Health Network (EMPHN) is funding new services at local youth services hub Edge to give young people in the City of Whittlesea better access to mental health, and alcohol and other drug (AOD) support services.

The 12-month program will boost the availability of mental health and AOD services for young people aged 12-25. Youth Projects and headspace Greensborough will deliver the services through the hub at ‘EDGE’ Whittlesea Youth Services, at Westfield Plenty Valley, Mill Park.

Patron Senator for McEwen, James Paterson, said there are a number of local factors which prevent young people in the area from accessing support for mental health and substance misuse issues, including stigma, limited access to support services and compounding difficulties including distance, cost and availability of transport.

“Our young people face a number of unique barriers which make accessing services difficult and this local hub will make getting help easier which could be the start of brighter futures for many,” he said.

Mayor Kris Pavlidis said the City of Whittlesea was pleased to welcome headspace and Youth Projects locally.

“Council and Whittlesea Community Futures have been advocating for better access to youth mental health services since 2009. We need better access to mental health services for all residents.

“The service will help young residents access the support they need to be healthy, happy and stay engaged in education and employment,” Cr Pavlidis said.

EMPHN CEO Robin Whyte said her organisation has invested in this initiative based on the evidence that has emerged from our needs assessment of the region.

“Our needs assessment identified that young people in Whittlesea are at a heightened risk of misusing alcohol and other drugs, which is why we are investing funds in this part of our catchment.” she said.

Youth Projects CEO Ben Vasiliou said the team are ready to help Whittlesea’s young people take on the challenges they face which contribute to issues of substance misuse.

“These young people face higher reported levels of psychological distress, high rates of family violence and early disengagement from school, but we are ready to help them tackle these challenges and get them back on track,” he said.

Mind Australia is the lead organisation for headspace Greensborough. General Manager, Mind Centres Victoria, Meaghan Holden said pairing services for mental health and misuse of alcohol and other drugs together is vital.

“Mental health issues and drug and alcohol misuse need to be considered at the same time to provide effective support for young people, which is what this hub will facilitate,” she said.

Youth Projects will provide screening, assessment, treatment and referral options for local young people with challenges related to substance use, while headspace Greensborough will provide an outpost of its mental health services at the hub.

The new services will begin operation from Whittlesea Council’s Edge youth services facility by the end of August and run as a pilot until 30 June 2019.

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