Mental health funding cut

The Buttery’s Krystian Gruft says the Mental Illness and Substance Abuse program must be run long-term to be effective.
The Buttery’s Krystian Gruft says the Mental Illness and Substance Abuse program must be run long-term to be effective. Jay Cronan

FEARS are held for the well-being of people with mental health problems when the cash runs out for one of The Buttery’s outreach programs.

Program manager Krystian Gruft said funding for the Mental Illness and Substance Abuse (MISA) lifestyle support project would cease in June.

Mr Gruft said the link between mental illness and drug and alcohol use was well established and it would be a great shame for MISA to end.

His client group tended to be shuffled back and forth between agencies specialising in substance abuse or in mental health, he said.

“MISA targets those who fall into both categories, and it is a significant number in our area. People with mental health issues may experiment with drugs, which may make them feel better initially, but which always leads to greater problems,” he said.

If the MISA program ceased many of these clients would become very isolated and frustrated, Mr Gruft said.

“It takes a while to develop these programs, to build trust with clients, with partnering groups and with schools carers and parents. That is all established, but if we lose the funding we’ll have to start all over again.”

Mr Gruft said there were 150 people on MISA’s books. It ran group programs in Lismore, Ballina, Tweed Heads and Mullumbimby, with five to 15 people in each. Such groups were some people’s only means of support.

“Plus, we see people one-on-one, conduct education programs in schools, and run support programs for carers,” he said.

Programs such as these need to be continuous to be effective, he added.

MISA runs a whole school project, but also focuses on Years 8 and 9, ‘when kids start experimenting with alcohol and drugs’.

Mr Gruft said funding had come through the Attorney-General’s office and MISA had been hoping some other body would step in. But they have not given up. A protest outside Richmond MP Justine Elliot’s office in Tweed Heads is planned for March 4.

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