Last Wednesday we were honoured to host The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and the Federal Member for Lindsay, Melissa McIntosh MP at our office.
Essential to what we do as a regional health planning and funding body, is knowing our region and understanding the primary healthcare needs of our community. This visit was an opportunity for us to not only showcase some our work but to advocate for the health needs of our region, particularly in regards to mental health and addiction support.
In terms of drug and alcohol treatment, our region has been lacking non-residential support and services that effectively engage with young people. We have been working hard to address these gaps and were delighted to ask the Minister to announce that we have commissioned the Ted Noffs Foundation to design and operate a Street University in Penrith.
Building on the success of the seven existing Street Universities across Australia, the Penrith service will provide young people with a free community space that will embrace their art, music and culture while providing early intervention for addiction and mental health issues, along with educational and vocational training.
Research shows that the combination of engagement and treatment leads to a wide range of positive outcomes for young people. Across the current Street Universities there has been a 50% drop in drug use, with many young people ceasing use altogether, a 60% drop in crime and significant reductions in suicidal ideation. The success of the concept comes from the fact that each centre is co-designed with local young people and the treatment aspect is evidence-based.
The Minister and the Member for Lindsay had the chance to meet with young people from other Sydney Street Universities. They also heard from Ted Noffs staff member Ian Escandor, who shared his personal journey from being a former Street University client, to a now qualified Drug and Alcohol Counsellor with the program.
We are really excited to be able to bring this innovative service to the streets of Penrith. To be able to respond to an identified need like this, and to provide greater local support to young people struggling with mental health and addiction issues, is at the heart of why Primary Health Networks were put in place.