CEO Update - It will be a mistake… if we don’t make both systems work.

It will be a mistake… if we don’t make both systems work.

The World Health Organisation’s Mental Health Plan 2013 - 2020 says member states have a responsibility to:

Ensure that people with mental disorders and psychosocial disabilities are included in activities of the wider disability community…

The WHO plan says psychosocial disability refers to:

People who have received a mental health diagnosis, and who have experienced negative social factors including stigma, discrimination and exclusion. People living with psychosocial disabilities include ex-users, current users of the mental health care services, as well as persons that identify themselves as survivors of these services or with the psychosocial disability itself.

I quote these passages today, because some of you will have seen a headline, and story, on the front page of The Australian today saying “Mental health in NDIS a ‘mistake’…”

And such a bold assertion requires some careful analysis.

The advocacy of people with lived experience of mental health issues and psychosocial disability was the key reason the Productivity Commission was convinced to include psychosocial disability within the scope of the NDIS, though this did happen late in their considerations.

I think much of the confusion and difficulty since, has arisen because too many have assumed this means moving the mental health system completely into the NDIS. This should not be the case, and there are many policy decisions that have helped to confound this error.

Serious mental health issues impact some 690,000 Australians each year. Of those, on the Government’s own estimate, only about 230,000 are in need of ongoing psychosocial support of some kind. Of these, only about 64,000 are considered to be in need of complex, individualised packages of psychosocial support.

The care that will be delivered through the NDIS should comprise non-clinical supports and individually tailored packages of psychosocial support - ie support for psychosocial disability - especially functional support and capacity building – for that small group of people.

Outside the NDIS, we continue to require a high quality mix of services and programs to support both NDIS participants, and non-participants with the right mix of clinical, non-clinical and psychosocial supports.

In short, we need a high quality mental health system to support the one in five Australians who experience mental health issues each year.  We also need a high quality NDIS to provide support for the very small number of Australians who experience psychosocial disability that might be considered very long term or even lifelong.

To put it another way, why would we exclude some 64,000 Australians experiencing psychosocial disability from the supports offered by the NDIS? To do so would send a signal that people with psychosocial disability are not deserving of the same supports and entitlements of people with other disabilities, and would put us out of step with the direction flagged by the World Health Organisation.

It would also put us out of step with those advocates with lived experience of these issues, who worked so hard to ensure they were not excluded.

The solution lies in making both systems work, and it would be a mistake to choose one or the other.

Warm regards 


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