Date: 2 December 2020
The NSW Branch of the Pharmacy Guild has been commended for its work on the community pharmacy mental health training program.
In July, the NSW Government announced it was investing $1 million in a pilot program to deliver mental health training to pharmacists and staff.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said at the time: “With the ongoing impact of drought, bushfires and COVID throughout the regions, our communities are dealing with financial stress and uncertain times… we want to provide more opportunities for people to talk with health professionals about their mental health. Every conversation that helps a person’s mental health is the opportunity to save or improve a life.”
In response to a question in Parliament last week, NSW Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women Bronnie Taylor said NSW regional and rural communities had had a difficult year with drought, bushfires and the COVID‑19 pandemic.
“Our regional communities are tough and resilient. They get on with the job, but some still find it hard to put their hand up to ask for help, whether that be to mend a fence or with their own mental health.
“In regional NSW, pharmacies are often the first place people go to for health issues, so regional pharmacists and their staff have a significant social footprint in their communities.
“That is why the Government has directed that $1 million of its almost $12 million drought relief extension package go towards the NSW branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia to train community pharmacists and pharmacy staff in regional areas to identify and assist patients with mental health issues.
“People trust their pharmacists and this training equips more allied health professionals in our regions with the skills to recognise and respond to mental health needs.”
She said the mental health community pharmacy training program would deliver at least 100 training workshops to more than 5,000 pharmacists and staff across eight drought-affected rural or regional local health districts in 2021.
“The Pharmacy Guild of Australia has engaged experts who have developed the courses tailored specifically for pharmacists.
“The courses on offer include blended mental health first aid and workshops that focus on depression, anxiety, trauma‑informed care and suicide prevention.”
Since receiving the funding, the Guild had actively promoted the program to all 1,483 pharmacies and 7,085 pharmacists in NSW. In addition to the planned workshops, 74 blended mental health first aid courses were scheduled up to June 2021.
“Over 700 pharmacists and staff are already registered for courses, with more courses still being added to the program. Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, most training is being delivered via self‑paced online learning or a live virtual classroom. The silver lining is that this benefits many regional and rural pharmacy staff who will not need to travel away from their communities to attend training.
“Face‑to‑face workshops are also being planned for Newcastle, Orange and Dubbo.
“The NSW branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has done a fantastic job of organising the development, promoting and rolling out of the courses in a short space of time. I thank everyone involved in this important program for their hard work in support of pharmacy staff and our regional and remote communities.
“Pharmacists play a crucial role in rural and regional New South Wales. It is an extremely well‑respected profession.
“As a nurse, I would often consult with a pharmacist. GPs and doctors will say that a pharmacist's knowledge of medication often far surpasses their own.
“Pharmacists are a wonderful and valued resource. We thank them for their strong commitment to mental health in NSW.”
NSW President of the Pharmacy Guild, David Heffernan, said the success of the pilot highlighted the deep commitment of community pharmacists to the welfare of their patients.
“Our pharmacy teams have embraced this training and recognise its importance in the communities they serve,” Mr Heffernan said.
“The drought, bushfires and then COVID have had a huge impact and community pharmacies see this scheme as an opportunity for people to talk with health professionals about their mental health.
“It also highlights the broad range of skills that pharmacists have to provide more services for patients.
“We look forward to working with the Government on the next phase of this important initiative.”
Contact: The Guild