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Australia Have The Right Idea With Mental Health

Sweeping changes to mental health provision aim to foster personalised care – Australia


People living with mental illness will soon be able to access personalised care through the government’s primary health networks under sweeping changes to be announced on Thursday.

People who are identified by healthcare professionals as having complex needs will be able to access a range of services to manage their illness, including psychiatric care, drug and alcohol rehabilitation services and community and peer support systems.

The health minister, Sussan Ley, said the changes would move Australia away from a “one-size-fits-all” mentality towards a “more modern, flexible model of care”.

“Just like any other chronic disease, mental illness is often complex and requires access to multiple health professionals and support services to address it properly,” Ley said. “Experts recognise many patients with severe or complex mental health needs would benefit from an integrated healthcare package tailored to their individual needs and that’s what we’re delivering.”
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Ley will also announce the consolidation of more than 30 government-funded phone and online services into a single helpline for people living with mental illness.

“There are many fantastic phone counselling and advice services in Australia, but with so many different numbers available, it can be difficult for people to navigate themselves to the right service in their time of need,” the health minister said.

“That’s why we want to improve access to the right help when and where people need it with a trained, helping voice at the end of the line to point people in the right direction.”

The minister said the new arrangements would be delivered via the 31 primary health networks, allowing services to be tailored to each area.

The changes form part of the federal government’s response to the 25 recommendations of a report by the National Mental Health Commission.

Making the mental health system more “person-focused” was a key recommendation, as was moving away from funding emergency intervention in hospitals and redirecting it to prevention via primary health networks and community-based programs.

The report set a goal of halving the suicide rate by 2020 and noted the need to improve online and telephone support services, and support for childhood survivors of abuse and neglect.

The government has taken nearly a year to respond to the recommendations, though leaks have emerged. Most notably, in April it was revealed that Ley planned to reject the recommendation that $1bn of federal money be redirected from acute hospital care to community-based primary health services.

Earlier this year, the chairman of the committee that compiled the report, Alan Fels, said the mental health system was failing users.

“The commission’s view is that much of the funding from the commonwealth is neither effective nor efficient,” Fels said. “Much of this is payment for failure to treat the problems early and cost-effectively,” he told the National Press Club in August. “We have to catch people before they fall.”