A new approach to mental health in NSW

Article by the Mental Health Commission of NSW

NSW has embarked on what Premier, Mike Baird, has called a once-in-a-generation series of mental health system reforms aimed to reduce the state’s over-reliance on crisis care in hospitals and to strengthen community-based support for people who experience mental illness.

“I think this is a historic day for the state of NSW in terms of the difference we are going to make,” Mr Baird told the media and mental health sector representatives in Sydney on December 15.

The Minister for Mental Health, Jai Rowell, said, “Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, it can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime … that’s why these reforms are so important.”

The initiatives include:

  • A pledge to a long-term process of moving 380 long-stay patients in standalone psychiatric hospitals into appropriate supported accommodation in the community
  • An increase in the number of the highly successful Housing and Accommodation Support Initiative (HASI) packages
  • New links between the youth justice and mental health systems, and between schools and mental health services, and
  • Expanded programs for vulnerable families, delivered in their homes.

The changes, which will be supported by $115 million in new funding over three years, comprise the first stage of the Government’s response to Living Well: A Strategic Plan for Mental Health in NSW 2014 – 2014.

The Strategic Plan was developed by the Mental Health Commission of NSW, following a year-long consultation that involved more than 2000 people, including 800 mental health consumers, carers and family members.

The NSW Mental Health Commissioner, John Feneley, said the release of the Plan and the Government’s response were a landmark moment.

“The days of waiting for a crisis and responding only then are over,” Mr Feneley said. “This signals a fundamental reorientation of our system of mental health support, to emphasise the promotion of wellbeing, the prevention of mental illness, and the earliest possible intervention in the community when people do become unwell.”

The Strategic Plan and supporting documents, including an Easy English summary for people who struggle with literacy, are available here.

The Government’s response including detailed fact sheets is here.

The Commission also has launched The Living Well Project on a dedicated website and social media, to facilitate a community discussion about mental health experiences and expectations across NSW.


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