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PHN launches Veterans Connect service in a bid to reduce suicide.

The Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network (PHN) has announced the launch of a care navigation service with the objective of reducing mental health disorders and suicide among veterans and their families due to the timely receipt of appropriate healthcare. The service also aims to improve the health literacy of clients.

The service will be provided by Social Futures who have named the service Veterans Connect.

Social Futures CEO, Tony Davies is ready to launch the innovative service, “Care navigation is not care coordination or clinical care but rather a new approach designed to walk alongside the consumer to identify services in a supported and timely manner.

“The Veterans Connect service will have a strong emphasis on mental health support to ensure the safety and wellbeing of veterans and their families.”

The Central Coast Local Government Area has been selected for the program launch, due to the high population (>4800) of veterans from the Australian Defence Force, who require greater health and welfare support in comparison to the rest of the population.

The PHN Chief Executive Officer, Richard Nankervis said that due to the complex support that veterans require, there is a high need for service navigation. “Data shows us that veterans and their families are more vulnerable to mental health disorders resulting in a higher need for assistance with understanding and accessing appropriate health services.”

“Our aim is to see a reduction in the rate of mental health disorders and suicide in the Central Coast region and expand the service to the Hunter and New England regions within our Primary Health Network.”

In 2002–2017 the rate of suicide in ex-serving men 24% higher for ex-serving males and 102% (2.02 times) higher for ex-serving females than in non-ex-serving Australian men (AIHW National suicide monitoring of serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel: 2019 update).

Veterans Connect is based on a model of care implemented by the PHN since 2020. The Refugee Care Navigation program located in Armidale has successfully assisted hundreds of Ezidi refugees to navigate the system to ensure their health needs are addressed promptly. The PHN is anticipating a similar level of success with the Veterans Care Navigation service.

The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide is currently underway, with the final report due in mid-2023. The PHN have led and prepared a detailed submission, which includes a literature review and extensive consultations across the PHN network, primary care sector as well as with veterans and their families who reside in the PHN region. It is expected that the Royal Commission’s final report will be released mid-2023 and funding for programs recommended following the report will be available early 2024.

The Veterans Connect will be operational from early 2023.

Media enquiries to: Rebecca Brennan, Communications and Public Relations Manager 0437 478 138

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