CAIRNS-based charity organisation Wheels of Wellness (WoW) has been recognised for its efforts in providing primary healthcare to disadvantaged people who are sleeping rough or experiencing homelessness, receiving an award in the 2023 Queensland Mental Health Week Achievement Awards.
WoW is a registered charity that provides GP services across Cairns through both a clinic on Draper Street and outreach clinics which includes house calls to Q-homes, crisis accommodation, and mobile GP clinics at various locations around the city.
Homelessness does not stem solely from one social issue but from a mix of complex issues, and with one of the main causes being mental health, WoW decided to establish a program that allowed people to express their feelings through art.
WoW secured funding through mental health and disability support service Open Minds to purchase the necessary art supplies to run the program and aptly named it the Art of Mental Health.
Despite only running for the duration of Queensland Mental Health Week last year, the program was a massive success and many of the paintings are now on permanent display at WoW.
Due to the program’s reception, WoW was named as the winner of the Workplace Award – Community Wellbeing for the 2023 Queensland Mental Health Week Achievement Awards, an achievement that WoW Director Yolonde Entsch is extremely proud of.
“For us, as a GP practice, to have been named as a finalist in a state mental health award is an absolute credit to our multi-disciplinary clinical team but more so, on this occasion, to the hard work and dedication of WoW’s mental health social worker Christine Strong,” she said.
“Art is an excellent way to offer people some respite from the harsh reality of their day-to-day lives.
“We work with people who have significant mental health and addiction issues, so to leave any of their concerns, issues, trauma and heartbreak at the door is a gift, and then to be able to express how they are feeling through art can be therapeutic.”
WoW’s goals are to reduce the impact on Cairns Hospital’s emergency department and to provide much-needed primary healthcare to people who are less forthcoming to seeking medical attention.
“When you are a chronic rough sleeper, when you are homeless, there are so many barriers that you have to overcome every single day – your actual health can be one of the last things you think about unless it is acute,” Mrs Entsch said.
“We have seen conditions that have gotten out of hand and have become chronic health issues because they haven’t been addressed earlier on or there has been a lack of consistent care.”
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