Health Minister agrees to come to Grafton
FEDERAL Health Minister Greg Hunt has agreed to meet with a grief-stricken Grafton father to view the Clarence Valley's mental health needs first-hand.
ABC's 7.30 program last night featured an emotional segment on the region's suicide crisis, speaking to family and friends of "vibrant" teenager Emma Powell, who took her own life in December.
During the segment, her father Michael said that if he was speaking to the Health Minister, he would tell him not to wait for the statistical report to come through, and instead come for a drive and see these people in the community who were dealing with the critical issue on a daily basis.
In the studio, Mr Hunt told 7.30 host Leigh Sales he would go and meet Mr Powell.
"There's no substitute for talking with the front-line social workers and talking with the families affected," he said.
"This is an individual tragedy in every case, but it is a national crisis and what we've been doing has made things better, but it's not good enough and it has to be better still."
Mr Hunt called the country's suicide crisis the single most important thing he could focus on, and confirmed the NSW North Coast would be one of 12 trial sites for a new suicide prevention program.
Last night, Western NSW, Darwin, Central QLD and Geraldton in Western Australia were added to that list.
The health minister said for each community, a different strategy or approach may be appropriate.
"It's about finding the right response for each area," he said.
"I will make a guarantee that in every one of these trial sites the goal is to improve services to reduce waiting times to make sure that we have better outreach."