Authors: St Vincent’s Mental Health
Event: 2003 TheMHS Awards
Type of resource: TheMHS Awards
Award state: VIC
Award level: Finalist
Award category: Quality Improvement Programs or Strategies
Abstract: The Yarra Oral Health Project is collaboration between a number of service providers and mental health consumers in the City of Yarra to improve the oral health of a vulnerable population whose oral health is compromised by financial, attitudinal and organisational barriers as well as psychiatric disability. The project has succeeded in raising awareness of the oral needs of mental health service consumers in mental health service providers and improving access to dental treatment by people living with a mental illness. Description of Facility/Organisation: The City of Yarra is culturally diverse community situated in inner city Melbourne with a population of 69,000 people. The area has a large number of public housing residences, rooming houses and shelters for homeless people. Yarra has high rates of mental disorders compared with the Victorian average. The project raised awareness of existing resources and prioritised the needs of mental health consumers so that they could access free dental treatment on the same basis and within the same time frames as other community members accessing private dental services. The two community health centres in North Richmond (NRCHS) and North Yarra (NYCHS) provide general health and dental services to the local population. Psychiatric Disability Support Services operate from NYCHS (Collingwood site) NRCHC and from a number of other sites in the Yarra area to provide for the high rate of psychiatric disability. St Vincent’s Mental Health Service delivers a range of mental health services to the area via Clarendon Community Mental Health Service, St Vincent’s Hospital and through the Footbridge Community Care Unit. The collaboration between these services, the City of Yarra and Dental Health Services, Victoria developed out of project funded by DHS, Victoria under the Victorian Oral Health Promotion Strategy. Deinstitutionalisation placed a large number of people with mental illness back in the community with responsibility for oral health handed back to the consumer. Disability and poverty have prevented mentally ill people from accessing dental care. This, combined with the dry mouth side effect of some psychiatric medicines has resulted in very poor oral health among the mentally ill population. Lack of awareness of oral health risks by case managers and barriers such as cost and long waiting lists for dental procedures have compounded the problem. The Yarra Health Project successfully addressed these problems and has improved the quality of life for those consumers who have used the service. Services elsewhere in Victoria have recognised the value of this initiative and have implemented similar projects in other areas.