Mental Health Reform

On 26 November 2015, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was joined by the Minister for Health, the Hon Sussan Ley MP to announce a much-anticipated response to the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services.

In this response, the Australian Government outlined a framework for reform of Australia’s mental health system. 

February update on reform progress

The Department of Health has provided the following update on progress with the implementation of the Government’s reform package. 

Since the Government’s Response to the Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services was announced on 26 November 2015, implementation arrangements have progressed across key elements of the Government’s reform package.

  • Importantly, funded organisations were provided with advice in December 2015 about funding arrangements to apply to their projects from 1 July 2016. This includes Mental Health Nurse Incentive Programme, Partners in Recovery (refer below and attached), Day to Day Living, Mental Health in Rural and Remote Areas, Access to Allied Psychological Services, Suicide Prevention, headspace and the Early Psychosis Programme.
  • There will be a period of transition as existing funding arrangements between the Department and organisations are replaced by commissioning arrangements through PHNs. The Department is talking directly with affected organisations and PHNs to support effective transition arrangements.
  • Effort is focusing on the priorities for 2016-17 implementation, including the expanded role for PHNs, programme transition arrangements, development of new suicide prevention arrangements and child and youth arrangements.
  • The level of funding flexibility from 1 July 2016 will vary across programme areas and in general this move will occur gradually, with many arrangements for delivery of services remaining effectively unchanged in 2016-17. A phased implementation approach over the next three years is being used to implement the more complex aspects of the reform package, including clinical care coordination packages for severe and complex mental illness.
  • A package of detailed guidance material is being developed to assist PHNs in the successful delivery of system change reforms. The guidance material is intended to support the delivery of key mental health objectives while allowing for flexibility and innovation It is anticipated the detailed guidance package will be provided to PHNs in late March 2016.

To further support implementation of the reform package, a Mental Health Reform Stakeholder Group has been established to support sector engagement, inform implementation issues and enable feedback to the Department and PHNs. The Group has discussed the importance not only of providing detailed guidance to PHNs, but also of ensuring information flows over time to the broader non government sector about reforms, and to support mental health professionals as partners in implementation of the reform process.

PHN lead sites are also being established to trial more complex aspects of the stepped care approach and to inform broader roll out in later years. An Expression of Interest process has been undertaken to select the lead sites and applications are currently being assessed. Selection of sites will aim to provide coverage across multiple jurisdictions and across metropolitan and rural areas, and enable development of: severe packages of care (including for youth); low intensity service models; and innovative models of stepped care.

Extension of the Partners in Recovery programme

The PIR programme has been extended for up to three years to support the transition of programme funding to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). National rollout of the NDIS commences from 1 July 2016, with full rollout to be achieved by 2019-20.

The extension will ensure service continuity for programme clients until NDIS rollout is completed in each jurisdiction. Funding arrangements will take into account the timeframes for transition of eligible clients to the NDIS and implementation of continuity of support arrangements for clients found not eligible for the NDIS. The Department will work closely with organisations to support ongoing service delivery and the transition of programme clients to the new arrangements.

  • PIR funded organisations will continue to be block funded by the department through the transition. Programme contributions to the NDIS will be ‘in-kind’ during this time.
  • Each PIR funded organisation will support the transition of eligible programme clients to the NDIS in line with the transition schedule for their jurisdiction.
  • PIR Organisations will continue cross-sector collaboration to improve the service system for people with severe and persistent mental illness with complex, multi-agency needs.
  • System reform and capacity building activities will take into account the Australian Government response to the national review of mental health programmes and services and NDIS rollout.
  • Existing PIR boundaries will be maintained during NDIS transition.

Further information on the funding extension process will be provided to PIR Organisations, together with programme guidelines for the transition period, in March 2016.


Response to the reform announcement

How can you help?

There are still a number of ways you can help mental health reform in Australia.

2. Become a member of Mental Health Australia

By strengthening our position through collective impact and by hearing from more organisations, we can ensure a broader range of issues are considered and a stronger voice for our sector. Find out how to join Mental Health Australia here.

3. Donate or become a Friend of Mental Health Australia

You can support the work of Mental Health Australia here. Your tax deductible donations will enable us to continue to produce independent and innovative advice and policy aimed at improving the services and support available for people with a lived experience of mental illness and those who care for them.

Also, as part of our ongoing need to sustain our activity we have also created a new way for individuals to support Mental Health Australia. For a small annual fee, you can become Friends of Mental Health Australia. We are looking for people who are keen to support the work we do, and help ensure our voice can remain independent and representative of the sector as a whole.

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