Jess, speaks on the Acute Community Intervention Service -  a newly launched, 24/7 single point of access to the entire mental health service.

Most notably, she explains that the Mental Health triage number is 1300 104 211. This number is available 24/7 for anyone needing assistance or support for yourself, a loved one, a family member, or a friend.

Audio Transcription:

Leah Wiseman: Welcome to our Albury Wodonga Health wellbeing and resilience podcast series, to help keep people connected, share our community stories of hope and resilience, and provide information about mental health and local services.

Today I'm joined by Jess Cullen, our Acute Community Intervention Service Manager. The Acute Community Intervention Service or ACIS launched July 1 this year, and provides a single point of access to the entire mental health service 24/7 across the entire lifespan.

Jess, can you tell us a bit about how the ACIS works?

Jess Cullen: ACIS consists of multiple functions throughout the teams. So we have an ED response to all three EDs covered within our catchment areas – Albury, Wodonga and Wangaratta. And we also provide a clinical liaison nurse to our general wards. On top of that, we also have a six week short-term treatment team. So they provide acute community intervention to those who need it most in our community.

Leah Wiseman: Thanks, Jess. And what's the first step in terms of people accessing the service?

Jess Cullen:  Triage can be contacted via 1300 104 211. It's a 24 hour/7 service and anyone can call. So you can call regarding needing assistance or support for yourself, a loved one, a family member or a friend.

Leah Wiseman: So this was quite different to the way that access to the service used to work. And if you were somebody who wanted to either refer yourself, or a loved one to the mental health service.

Jess Cullen:  It has changed significantly. So prior to the first of July, if you wanted to refer yourself or someone else to our service in Albury, you'd have to go through access line, which is a third party triage service. And then access line would do the referral to our service for you.

Now, you can have a direct referral through to the triage service. And all of that information gets passed onto our short-term treatment teams the following business day. If it is acute or crisis situation, and you need follow-up on that day, then you're seen in our ED or in the community by our ED responder.

Leah Wiseman: So Jess, who answers the phone when you call that 1300 number?

Jess Cullen:  You'll speak directly with one of our qualified mental health clinicians who all have many years of experience working within the area.

Leah Wiseman: And that could be answered in Albury, Wodonga or Wangaratta?

Jess Cullen:  Yes, that is correct.

Leah Wiseman: So there's probably people who didn't even realise that when you read it was part of the mental health service.

Jess Cullen:  Yeah, it is. So our triage service has functioned for many years from Wangaratta, for our Wangaratta and Wodonga catchment area. So this isn't a new thing for them. Those living in Wodonga and Wangaratta, will be quite familiar with the service. And we're really excited that we have expanded that out to Albury now.

Leah Wiseman: So Jess, to launch an ACIS in the middle of a mental health pandemic, on the back of a COVID pandemic and post-bushfires, it seems like interesting timing.

Jess Cullen: So ACIS has been in the making for a number of years now - you would know very well yourself being the redesign manager behind it all. So we could never have envisioned that we would be launching amongst a COVID pandemic at the same time. And as a result of that pandemic, we have seen the effects that it has had on our border community, especially not only with the restrictions that COVID brings in regards to isolating, but also with our local border closures which has made it extremely difficult for local people. And we have seen actually since the first of July, when our service first launched, an increase in numbers. So we've gone from what we were seeing, around about 23 referrals a day through our service, to now the high 50s.

Leah Wiseman:So that's across the entire catchment - the high 50s?

Jess Cullen: That is across the entire catchment. So that isn’t age limited, so it can be anyone from newborn to end of life.

Leah Wiseman: So that's a new part of the service, isn't it? But it used to be that if you are an older person, or if you are under 18, you'd access the service in a different way. This is now the way you can access the service, regardless if you're ringing on behalf of your child, or if you're somebody who's over 65.

Jess Cullen: Yeah, so as a part of the redesign one of the key things that we wanted to put in place was to make access to our service easier for everyone in the community and to have that single point of access.

Leah Wiseman: And I just wanted to ask about the ED response, in particular Jess, because it's known that that's the spot people often end up when they're in crisis. How has that changed now?

Jess Cullen: Their response varies significantly throughout the three EDs, so Wodonga ED had 24-hour coverage where Albury and Wangaratta don’t or didn't. So now that the redesign has taken place, all EDs will have 24-hour coverage. So our Wangaratta ED and southern part of the service will go to full implementation on the seventh of December. So after the seventh of December, we'll see Wangaratta ED come on board and have 24/7 coverage. So that means that previously when somebody’s presented at 10:30 at night, they may have had to have waited till nine o'clock the next morning to be seen by a mental health clinician. That will no longer be the case. And hopefully they'll be seen very shortly after arrival,

Leah Wiseman: So great for the mental health service, the community as well as the EDs in terms of being able to address people's needs more quickly.

Jess Cullen: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Leah Wiseman: And Jess, can you just clarify for anyone listening? This line is appropriate to ring for anyone - for somebody who might be feeling like they're going okay, but things might be getting more difficult, through to somebody who's in an acute crisis?

Jess Cullen: Yeah, this is available for absolutely anyone. So the majority of the calls that we actually see come through to our triage line are calls for advice. Even if you just want some advice, you're a bit worried about someone or yourself for that matter, and you're not quite sure where to go. You can call us any time of the day and we might be able to point you in the right direction, even if you don't need I guess any more services from us.

Leah Wiseman: Thanks Jess. Can you just remind everyone the number before we finish up?

Jess Cullen: So that number again, was 1300 104 211?

Leah Wiseman: Thank you to our guests on today's episode of our Albury Wodonga Health mental health podcast series - a sense of connection, mental health, wellbeing and resilience. You can find our contact details, and exhaustive resource list, and the entire podcast series at under the mental health tab.