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Commission WEBSITE: Healthy Community Projects

Rural Health examples

Sage Hill Carers' Service

Sage Hill Carers'

Service provides support for carers of people living with a mental illness

in the Warrnambool area of south-west Victoria.

In 1989 the Association

for the Support of Psychiatric Services (ASPS) was established in Warrnambool

after a public meeting identified the need for a service to support individuals

with a mental illness and their carers. This need was also identified

in a study of carers funded by the National Mental Health Funding Scheme

and carried out by Lowndes and Harrison in 1993. The report also overwhelmingly

identified a desperate need for a specific service to provide support

for carers. In 1994 funding was received, again from the National Mental

Health Funding Scheme, to set up Sage Hill Carers' Service.


Sage Hill aims to

ensure that carers of people with a mental illness needing support and

assistance are not turned away or referred to another service simply because

their need is deemed "too difficult". Previous attempts to establish similar

services resulted in those services providing direct assistance to the

person with the mental illness, rather than the carer, despite being established

to assist the carer. Sage Hill actually focuses on the needs of the carers

and the carers feel that they can seek meaningful assistance for themselves.

What the Program does

While Sage Hill is

aware of groups like Schizophrenia Fellowship and other groups which provide

support for those with affective disorders like Huntington's chorea and

Alzheimer's disease, these groups generally were metropolitan based with

satellite groups in other centres. They do not provide comprehensive services

for rural carers. Sage Hill works with existing services and groups. Establishing

a group that would specifically cater for the varied needs of carers in

the community is an innovative initiative. The service opened in January

1995 and by 1997 had 145 registered carer-clients. Sage Hill now has almost

650 registered clients.

What makes it successful

Peter McMahon, Coordinator

of Sage Hill, believes the Program is successful because, "it encourages

carer feedback and consults with carers on a regular basis, informally

and formally. An example of this is the Sage Hill Carer Advisory Panel

which is representative of our client group."

Peter adds, "Sage

Hill also attempts to be responsive to carer needs by being flexible and

creative in our responses."

Image: Brenda Harrison receiving a Shizophrenia Fellowship award at Monash University


Brenda Harrison receiving a Schizophrenia Fellowship award at Monash University.

Brenda is pictured here with a group of carers who were involved in the

establishment of Sage Hill and are affectionately referred to as the "Tribal


Difficulties encountered

Peter says, "the

transition from Commonwealth funding to state funding was a difficult

process." He adds, "this is probably much to do with the Program's

uniqueness of service, it's difficult to categorise."

Another difficulty

"is the large rural area it services. The geographical isolation compounds

the difficulty of obtaining peer support and supervision, leaving many

to work as sole practitioners."

Funding sources

Initial funding was

received from the National Mental Health Funding Scheme for the first

two years. Recurrent funding is now received from the Department of Human

Services (Victoria).