National Mental Health Reform 2011-12

A new approach – A ten year roadmap for mental health reform

Page last updated: 06 June 2011

The Australian Government will provide national leadership to deliver a mental health system that gives Australians with mental illness timely access to support, and the best chance to recover, stabilise and stay well in the community.

The Government will make immediate reforms to Australia’s mental health system to boost early detection and treatment and improve how services work together. These reforms will also increase the number of services available for people in the short term. The reforms focus on five key areas, identified after a thorough review of the evidence and informed by expert stakeholders drawn from the range of services needed by
people with mental illness:

  1. better care for people with severe and debilitating mental illness - who are amongst the most disadvantaged people in our community;
  2. strengthening primary mental health care services;
  3. prevention and early intervention for children and young people;
  4. encouraging economic and social participation, including jobs, for people with mental illness; and
  5. improving quality, accountability and innovation in mental health services.
Through this Budget, links between new and existing services will be improved by clearly putting the consumer, not bureaucratic process, at the centre of the mental health system. This means that no matter where someone enters the system, they will be connected to the services they need. Instead of an episodic and isolated approach to care, people will access appropriate treatment and support through the continuum of their illness.

The reforms have been developed with particular reference to what we know works – for example, models of youth-friendly mental health services; the clinical effectiveness and accessibility of e-Mental health services; the ability of the Access to Allied Psychological Services program to meet needs in hard to reach groups; the success of social support services to reconnect people back in the community, and the growing body of evidence for early intervention in childhood development.

The reforms also build on the considerable investments already made by the Government in the past eighteen months - in tackling suicide, expanding headspace mental health services, and underwriting more subacute beds, for example. Other reform agendas being implemented by this Government are also linked with these measures, including broader health reforms, tackling homelessness, and better support for carers and those with disabilities – recognising that the needs of people with mental illness span multiple areas of government.

We recognise that the Australian Government, states and territories, non government organisations and the private sector all deliver mental health programs. While the overarching objectives of these programs are often quite similar, there is very little in the way of formal links across and between programs which leads to inefficient service delivery through requiring duplicative processes. It can also be a fragmented system
which individuals find hard to navigate, and uncertainty over which agency or which program is responsible for which aspect of an individual’s support and care. Individuals and providers aren’t interested in which government department is supposed to be funding a service, they just want to know that the service is available when and as it is needed.

The Commonwealth will exercise national leadership – putting its own house in order through these immediate reforms, while giving states and territories an incentive to dedicate more resources to the mental health system through a new National Partnership. This will target the priority areas of accommodation support and presentation, admission and discharge from hospital, particular emergency departments.

The measures in this Budget will carry us a significant way towards the goal of an effective, responsive mental health system. But we know this cannot be completed without time, sustained focus and sustained investment, including in areas that have not been identified as immediate priorities.

The Government’s vision for change will be developed into a ten year Roadmap for Mental Health Reform. The Government will engage with expert stakeholders and states and territories to inform development of the full Roadmap, which will be completed later in 2011 as the concrete expression of the Government’s reform directions.

The Roadmap will set out what Australia’s mental health system should look like in ten years, and the main steps involved in reaching this goal. It will guide future reform, as the measures funded through this Budget are bedded down and their effects evaluated.

Achieving this vision will require support, engagement and collaboration across all levels of government, non-government organisations, individuals and providers. The foundations for reform build on what we currently have that is working well, but also pave the way for new and innovative opportunities in the future by providing a framework and plan for future investment in mental health.