Eating disorder services to expand, with early intervention a key focus

Released 25/10/2018

The ACT Government is set to expand eating disorders services following a recent Eating Disorders Petition in the ACT Assembly.

Currently, eating disorder services in the ACT range from primary health care to specialist eating disorder interventions, together with community programs and education.

In releasing the Government’s Eating Disorders Strategy Paper today, Minister for Mental Health Shane Rattenbury outlined a range of measures that the Government is progressing to improve eating disorder services.

The ACT Government will take a number of short term actions to strengthen the eating disorders service system. These projects include:

  • Increasing knowledge of eating disorders amongst GPs by promoting access to General Practitioner Training and Resources, in partnership with the Capital Health Network;
  • Establishing a Specialty Network listing of health professionals with an interest and passion in eating disorders, which can be shared between community organisations;
  • Exploring interstate clinical specialist partnerships;
  • Increasing community access to existing specialist e-Therapy programs and services;
  • Inpatient mapping, modelling, data analysis and coding for future health services planning;
  • Incorporating eating disorders literacy training for general mental health workforce;
  • Working with our established health and mental health service providers to raise awareness and service offerings for eating disorders;
  • Community health promotion campaigns; and
  • Ensuring better linkage of services across private services, Calvary, ACT Health and primary care.

The Strategy Paper also identifies possible future options, ensuring that services are system-wide, rather than focused on acute services. These include:

  • Developing local coordination capacity and leadership through the establishment of clinical excellence hubs;
  • Specialist eating disorder consult liaison;
  • Opportunities for partnership with NGOs and community organisations. This can include step-up step-down transition support, community based counselling, advocacy, education, and case management;
  • Further development and implementation of contemporary Clinical Guidelines and Referral Pathways;
  • Promoting and enabling better discharge planning and transition;
  • Additional support for families and carers.

Eating disorders are serious illnesses that are often poorly understood, and their impacts underestimated. These diseases cause high levels of psychological distress, carry risk of long term mental and physical illness, an increased risk of premature death due to medical complications and an increased risk of suicide. Eating disorders can occur at any stage in life, although the incidence peaks nationally between the ages of 12-25.

Minister for Mental Health Shane Rattenbury said the petition, led by Molly Saunders, has been a key catalyst in the generation of the ACT Government’s new Eating Disorders Position Statement, tabled today in the Assembly.

“What emerged from this process is that the best approach for achieving better health outcomes for people with eating disorders is to enable them to actively engage with the right health services at the earliest stage of their disorder – ultimately keeping them well and out of hospital.

“The evidence is clear—the sooner treatment for an eating disorder begins, the shorter the recovery process. By focusing on early and community-based intervention, we can reduce the severity, duration and impact of eating disorders.

“I am confident that these initiatives will have a positive impact for those affected by eating disorders, and their families. The Government will be looking at additional, long-term options for improvements right across the continuum of care.

“Ms Saunders should be congratulated for her initiative on this public health matter that has an impact on many families in our community.

“Ms Saunders’ passion and drive led to a series of stakeholder workshops that examined the current status of ACT eating disorder services, gaps in those services and how best to move forward with evidence-based treatment programs.”

Molly Saunders, principal petitioner, thanked Minister Rattenbury for his receptiveness and quick response to her petition.

“It is fantastic to see consideration of the full spectrum of care required to prevent and treat eating disorders, alongside the hospital system,” Ms Saunders said.

“The workshops comprised informed discussion accounting for the complexity and varying types of eating disorders, and I look forward to the continuation of these efforts to improve the lives of people with eating disorders and their families,” she said.

Media event: Minister Rattenbury and Ms Saunders will address the media at 1pm today (Thursday), in the Legislative Assembly’s Member’s Courtyard.

The Eating Disorders Strategy Paper can be viewed online here.

- Statement ends -

Section: Shane Rattenbury, MLA | Media Releases

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