More localised approach to mental health welcomed

Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network (HNECCPHN) has welcomed the Federal Government’s response to the recommendations in the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services.

CEO of the Network, Richard Nankervis said “I think today’s announcement by the Minister provides a framework for the future and forms a practical plan to reform Australia’s mental health system”.

“A key outcome of these changes will be a greater focus on locally developed and delivered services. This will improve access to programs and services and provide greater opportunities for people to meet their mental health needs”, Mr Nankervis said.

"As the Minister has indicated one of the most exciting aspects of these reforms is the focus on the individual. The changes will not be a one size fits all program-driven approach, the emphasis is on understanding an individual's mental health needs”

“At present many of the agencies providing mental health services experience difficulties in integrating their services and this results in many people having multiple encounters with differing service providers. The current system remains siloed and primary health networks are well placed to help reduce this fragmentation”.

“As part of the new arrangements PHNs will be asked to develop regional community mental health plans and in our region partnerships are already well established with the key mental health organisations in our region.

“We are already working with the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, Hunter New England Local Health District, Central Coast Local Health District and the Mental Health Commission to fully understand the mental health needs of individuals and communities in our region. Mental health is also well represented on HNECCPHN’s community and clinical advisory structures”.

Jaelea Skehan, Director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, has also welcomed this morning’s announcement.

“The mental health sector has been united in its calls for clear reform in mental health and suicide prevention to ensure we provide a better response to individuals, families and communities.

“We are well placed in this region to build on existing partnerships to ensure better responses to both mental health and suicide prevention. This will include an increased focus on prevention and early intervention, on person-centred care, and an approach which embraces innovation and collaboration as key pillars of success”.

“Our organisation and many others are ready to work with the Primary Health Network in our region to support better responses to mental health, and to ensure that the promise of the announcements today become a reality for our community and indeed communities across Australia,” she said.

“Mental illness is a national issue which is felt acutely at our local level. Across our whole region we know that levels of psychological distress are higher than the state average, with areas such as Taree, Glen Innes and Tenterfield being amongst the highest” Mr. Nankervis said.

“It probably comes as no surprise to say we welcome the increased recognition these changes bring to primary care and the acknowledgment of the important role primary care plays in delivering flexible services and its ability to respond effectively to community needs and local circumstances”.

“As noted by Prof. Allan Fels, Chair of the Commission, the proposed changes are not about taking money out of hospitals or vital mental health services in hospitals, but rather about building up those services which prevent hospitalisation”.

“If people can be looked after in the community, in primary care and in particular general practice, then they should be – hospitals are essential but that’s not where most people seek and need care”.

“Another important theme of the recommendations is an increased focus on personcentred care. This is where the system is designed to fit around the needs of people, not around the services providers have to offer”.

“At HNECCPHN we are committed to including the community in the conversation about reform of the mental health system. As more details become available on the proposed changes we will be seeking input from both individuals and organisations.”


For further information contact Scott White, HNECC Communication Manager, 0437 478 138