$192 million mental health boost a welcome step towards more effective services

The Coalition’s promised injection of $192 million in to expanded mental health services is a timely step toward what should be a more versatile response to the widespread challenge of mental illness, the Consumers Health Forum said today.

“The funding gives the new Primary Health Networks resources for trials they need to start making a real difference to the provision of community-based mental health services,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells said.

“There will be 10 PHN lead sites to test innovative approaches in mental health services including four sites to focus on suicide prevention. Funding will provide for an additional eight Suicide Prevention Trials in regional, rural and remote areas.

“It is well accepted that in a country as diverse as ours that locally tailored, evidence-based services that take into account need, other services and available workforce, not one-sizefits-all approaches, will deliver best for communities. It is particularly pleasing to see the role of PHNs as the agents through which truly regionalised service innovation and development can be achieved recognised. This form of placed-based health care which puts local consumers and clinicians in the planning driving seat offers great potential in the mental health and suicide prevention arena.

“People with mental health problems invariably have associated chronic conditions such as diabetes, pain or arthritis. PHNs are well placed to not only coordinate the innovative new approaches to mental health services but critically to also ensure they are well linked with other services so that people with the complexity of combined physical and mental health problems experience a less disjointed system.

“We also welcome the plan to use digital technologies to support mental health reforms by supporting the transformation of e-mental health and other digital systems to provide 24/7 services. Australian research is showing us that the use of on-line psychological counselling has the potential to bring effective therapies to people who otherwise might not or cannot access conventional counselling.

"The establishment of a Suicide Prevention Research Fund to support targeted research and development, and promised strengthening of the National Mental Health Commission to oversee mental health reforms and directly advise the Minister are welcome, as is support for a more sustainable and flexible mental health nursing workforce.

“We support the funding’s scope to enable the development of effective services through partnerships between government, non-government organisations and the private sector.

“We hope these fresh plans for mental health services are the promise of a more comprehensive and permanent development,” Ms Wells said.

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Jenna Gray

E J.Gray@chf.org.au
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