Helpline at breaking point


By Alesha Capone

The Werribee Hospital Foundation has launched an appeal to raise urgently-needed funds to upgrade the hospital’s ageing mental health crisis line, which is “stretched beyond capacity”.

In an open letter to the community, WHF’s chief executive Leanne Down said the line received upwards of 25,000 calls each year, linking to police, community workers and health professionals.

“It’s a big job on any day, but the service is now struggling to cope with unprecedented, fast-escalating demand.”

The foundation is hoping to raise $30,000 “to fund immediate upgrades to our 24-hour crisis line and make sure that every call gets answered”.

“We need to be able to guarantee that every call gets answered and urgent callers get the immediate response they need,” the letter states.

“We need advanced functionality to manage and allocate calls efficiently across the hospital and regional service network, and to enable virtual ‘face-to-face’ assessments with our expert team.”

According to the letter, the phone system that the triage line relies on is more than 15 years old. At peak times, overflow calls are directed to a single answering machine.

“Werribee Mercy’s crisis line is already stretched beyond capacity – when we know the worst is yet to come,” Ms Downs’ letter states.

A Mercy Health spokesperson said the service provided adult mental health services across the south-west Melbourne area, one of the fastest growing regions in Australia.

“The demand for mental health services in this region is growing in line with the population.

“Mercy Mental Health welcomes the Werribee Hospital Foundation’s efforts to support us to improve the service’s existing technology so we can better serve our clients.”

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