Never having had any personal experience with the Banksia Mental Health unit at Tamworth hospital, I did not comprehend the challenges for patients, and indeed staff, until quite recently.
The Leader has been a strong supporter of calls for an upgrade to the dated facility, throwing weight behind a petition to the Minister calling for much needed works to be fast tracked and putting the matter firmly onto the public agenda.
That petition was launched in November last year by the Tamworth Mental Health Carers Support Group, and has since amassed amazing support.
More than 13,000 people have put pen to paper in just a few short months, in a bid to get the decision makers on side in the debate.
Mental health is a huge issue in our society and we’re not just talking about suicide here.
The ripple effects are felt by entire families/communities.
So it’s vitally important to be able to offer those in need from across the entire region the best possible care.
We have the staff - there’s plenty of praise for the job they do in testing surrounds - but in this case it was the facility that was letting everyone down.
“Tired, outdated, unwelcoming, and not a good place for healing”: these are all words that have been used to describe the unit as it is currently.
Yesterday it was announced advocates have put forward a “strong case” for funding to finally upgrade the unit.
It’s not quite the same as having a cheque in hand ready to deposit, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Of course that’s not the end of the battle.
Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson has been banging on about this one for a while and his persistence it seems is paying dividends.
Now he says he’ll be pushing hard for the money to at least start the planning process.
That alone could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – these things don’t come cheaply after all.
But no one is going to say it’s not money well spent.
So to everyone who has lent their name to the cause, the signatories, the organisers of the petition, and our local MP Kevin Anderson – well done.
It’s certainly nice to see people power can still have such an impact when it matters.