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May 15, 2021

Talks to decide fate of mental-health centre

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The organisation running a day-to-day living program at Mullumbimby’s Tincogan Cottage for up to 45 people with mental illnesses from around Byron shire says it will meet with carers and clients soon to address fears the cottage could soon close its doors.

On Track Community Programs, which runs the federally-funded rehabilitation program at the cottage, told Echonetdaily it is currently in talks with the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSWLHD) in a bid to continue running the program at the cottage.

On Track’s chairperson Ken Lee said that until those talks had concluded, the services at the cottage would ‘continue to remain fully operational’.

The health district, which owns the building, recently tried to hose down rumours that it would close the cottage, telling Echonetdaily that ‘no decision’ had been made to sell it.

But clients and their families are concerned moves are afoot to close down the cottage as they said other similar centres, including one at Coffs Harbour, had recently been closed down.

For around 15 years Tincogan Street Cottage has provided day-to-day support for many people with mental health problems as well as vital social contact. Clients say the landmark community service has kept them out of hospital and even prevented suicide, but they fear they will drift away from an organised way of life that sustains them in their recovery.

The centre provides activities such as art, music, cooking, yoga, meditation, gardening and a weekly luncheon. Clients, many who suffer from bipolar disorder and referred there by specialists, say it gives them a ‘structure’ to their lives.

Mr Lee said many of the Byron consumers using the service ‘have other complex issues to deal with such as drugs and alcohol, homelessness, poverty and unemployment’.

Mr Lee said On Track was ‘fully supportive’ of the continued operation of the programs but was ‘currently negotiating’ with the NNSWLHD’s mental health services to keep running them at the cottage ‘on a fair and equitable basis’.

He said the organisation would contact consumers and carers within the next three weeks to set dates for consultation and its community services manager Tracey Lawson would receive their feedback.

A user of the service said the cottage was unique in Byron shire in that clients could access vital crisis support from mental-health staff and social workers five days a week from the centre, which also provided them with daily living and social skills in a social atmosphere.

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