The National LGBTI Health Alliance has received a grant to develop a national mental health and suicide prevention strategy for GLBTI Australians, however, in the same month the organisation has been forced to shed its CEO due to a lack of core funding.
The Alliance last week announced the Department of Health and Ageing grant of just under $130,000 will go towards the first stage of a proposed two-year project which aims to work with existing mainstream mental health services to better care for GLBTI people.
LGBTI Health Alliance chair Paul Martin told the Star Observer an extensive survey of current mental health providers and the GLBTI community will be the first step.
“The reality is most LGBTI people are going to get most of their [mental health] support from mainstream services, whether that’s GPs or counsellors or psychologists or a range of mental health organisations,” he said.
“Those mainstream organisations need to be culturally competent around LGBTI issues, so they need to know about the particular needs and issues of LGBTI people and how to work with LGBTI people to achieve successful outcomes.
“Most organisations, I think, want to know more about … how to work with LGBTI people in communities but they don’t really know how to go about it.”
Martin said the project — which is only funded for a four-month initial review process to be conducted by consultancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers — aims to build long-term partnerships between the Alliance and mainstream mental health organisations.
The Alliance will also set up a mental health working group to oversee the project involving member organisations Australia-wide.
However, in a blow to the organisation, the funding announcement follows news current Alliance CEO Gabi Rosenstreich will step down due to a lack of recurrent funding.
The Alliance will appoint a part-time coordinator for day-to-day management. Martin admitted Rosenstreich’s departure will reduce the organisation’s reach.
“Certainly in the short term, the Alliance may be a little bit slower in responding to requests that might come in. Obviously there’s going to be less capacity than we had with Gabi there so we’ll need to prioritise more strongly in terms of what types of activities we can do with the resources we have available and the outcomes that can be achieved.”
Martin said the Alliance is in discussions with the Department of Health and Ageing about possibilities for securing core funding and talks are “positive” but no funding has been promised.
“We continue to make the point that at the national level there is a sizeable infrastructure for more communities of interest, so disabled, women, Aboriginal and Islander, rural and remote, young people, seniors, all of them have a minister or parliamentary secretary for that area,” he said.
“All of them have some kind of advisory body to government. All of them have a unit within a department somewhere that’s got paid officers, all of them have some kind of national strategy or national plan for that area and all of them fund a peak body.
“At the moment the LGBTI community has none of that.”