How to achieve an integrated mental health system

Feb 18
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In 2015 the Government announced the biggest reforms to the mental health sector in decades.  The aim?  To create an integrated mental health system that would deliver better outcomes for people living with mental illness.

Three years on, while reform set the wheels in motion, we’re yet to see significant change.   So how do we achieve an integrated system?

Fund the right things

Recently the Government announced an additional $100 million in funding for youth mental health services.  Sounds great right? Well yes and no…

According to Professor Ian Hickie, a national Mental Health Commissioner, more funding needs to go towards fixing the system itself.

“For too long we have been pumping scarce resources into a dysfunctional system riddled by silos and an absence of independent monitoring and evaluation of effectiveness,” he said.

“There are more gaps between the services than there are integrated service pathways. And our response is to put more in.”

So where should the funding go?

According to Professor Hickie the Government should have taken on the NMHC’s 2014 recommendations to reallocate $1 billion in hospital funding to community-based services.

“We also continue to prioritise funding into institutional settings when we know that community-based psychosocial, primary and community health services can have the most impact,” he said.

Start collaborating

So if the Government needs to allocate more funding to fix the system, what does the sector need to do?

For Professor Hickie, collaboration is the key.  He says the best way to deliver high quality mental health care is through multidisciplinary teams but that this approach isn’t embraced by the sector.

“In many cases, however, these are resisted by professional organisations that prioritise fee-for-service, solo-practitioner or single-professional group styles of practice,” he said.

Do it yourself

There’s a lot of frustration in the sector about the lack of progress around the Government’s reforms and that’s understandable.  But we have a choice, to either wait for the Government to do something else or to start making integration a reality in our own work.

We’re seeing some great examples of organisations putting their money where their mouth is and making integration a reality; take Aftercare’s Integration Centres or Macquarie Hospital’s Wellbeing Unit.

Learn more about what the Commonwealth Government as well as primary, secondary and tertiary care organisations are doing to bring about greater integration at the Towards an Integrated Mental Health System conference in March.  To view the agenda click here:

Submitted by Lindsey Eifler

Lindsey Eifler

Lindsey is a Senior Producer who specialises in conferences for the public and not-for-profit sectors. On Wednesdays and Fridays she has, arguably, the best office in the world; her home on the beautiful Central Coast.

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