MHCA CEO's Weekly Update - 21 March

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Providing psychosocial disability support through the NDIS

This Week

New NDIS proposal for mental health

As members will already be aware, the MHCA has been trying to raise awareness of our concerns about accommodating psychosocial disability and mental health into the NDIS for some time. While we have been keen advoactes supporting the scheme, there are many implementation issues to be resolved if we are going to avoide creating even more cracks for people to fall through.  

Just before Christmas we were invited by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to submit a proposal as to how some of these issues might be overcome. Following this we also had the opportunity to put these proposals directly to Minister Mitch Fifield who has responsbility for the NDIS within government.

In short, the proposal seeks to quarantine the spending on psychosocial disability within the NDIS and ensure some continuity in programs like PHaMS and others that deliver services to people who may not qualify for a full NDIS support package, while some more work is done to get the scheme’s design right.

To date we have received a very positive response to (and heard some concerns about) the proposal, but to date believe we are heading in the right direction. I discussed the proposal with the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum (NMHCCF) on Monday (where we heard some concern that we would step away from individual choice and control - a concern that we have recognised), and on Tuesday Josh Fear (Director of Policy and Programs) presented it to the 5th National Disability Summit in Melbourne. We will continue to seek stakeholder views over the coming weeks, and plan to focus on these issues at the CONGO on 10 April.

With the permission of the NDIA we have released the proposal on our website and I would be very pleased to receive feedback and, where possible, your support as we prosecute the case for change.
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NMHCCF Meeting

As mentioned above, I was pleased to attend the NMHCCF meeting on Monday along with our Consumer & Carer Team. A large number of important national issues were discussed, including the NDIS, the national review of mental health services and programs, Disability Employment Services and the impact on consumers and carers of smoking bans in inpatient units. At this meeting Robyn Kruk (previous CEO of the NMHC) agreed to become a “Friend of the Forum” offering assistance as a strategic advisor and providing additional support to members. This will be invaluable over the coming months as the Forum finalises a new Business Plan and identifies their strategic priorities for the next 12 months.

NDIS resources

Over the past few months we have been working with the NMHCCF to develop information for mental health consumers and carers about the NDIS. While the scheme is still in trial phase and there are a number of issues that are being worked out, the MHCA has developed a series of four fact sheets that are designed to provide consumers and carers with some information about the NDIS and what it might mean for people with psychosocial disability. The fact sheets are available to download by clicking on the links to the right of this email or by visiting our website.

These resources are DRAFT only at this stage. We are keen to receive feedback from consumers and carers about the sorts of things you want included in future NDIS fact sheets. Please feel free to contact and give him your thoughts.

Family Services and Mental Health

On Wednesday I was pleased to be invited to run a workshop on mental health and family services as part of Family Relationship Services Australia’s annual Senior Executive’s Forum. The forum gave us the chance to explore the important work that agencies offering family and relationship counselling could do to integrate more closely with mental health services - feeding in to our thinking about how the world’s best mental health system should function.

Meeting with Minister Dutton’s Office

Late Wednesday Josh Fear, Chris Wagner (Director of Communications) and I met with Minister Dutton’s staff as part of our regular communications. The meeting gave us chance to discuss the MHCA’s current work developing a vision for the best mental health system in the world; our proposed solution for the NDIS; and the impact of the current welfare reforms on people who experience mental illness.  We were also able to flag our concern about funding that ends for many programs on June 30th and our eagerness to ensure that the timing of the National Mental Health Commission’s Review does not result in these programs being lost.

Proposed change of name for the MHCA

As flagged in a previous update, members will be asked to vote on a proposal to change the name of the MHCA to Mental Health Australia at our upcoming Special General Meeting in April. The Board believes that Mental Health Australia is a simpler, more inclusive name that aligns with our culture and future direction. The removal of the words ‘Council of’ from the name reflects a desire for the organisation to be seen as being less ‘bureaucratic’ and more representative of the wide breadth of the mental health sector in Australia. If you have any questions or concerns about this proposal please contact either myself or Chris Wagner to discuss further.

Mental health conference funding now available

Are you organising a mental health and/or suicide prevention themed conference? If so, the MHCA might be able to provide you with financial assistance to hold the event. The March funding round of the Mental Health Conferences Funding Program is now open and will close on Friday 4 April so please visit our website for full details on how to apply.  I would also encourage you to share this announcement widely through your networks.
More info

Congratulations to Pat McGorry

Our congratulations go out to a good friend of the MHCA with the announcement this week that Professor Pat McGorry has been appointmented President-Elect of the Schizophrenia International Research Society. Encouraging to see Australia achieving international influence.



National day of action against bullying and violence

Today is the national day of action against bullying and violence. Schools around the country are taking part in activities to promote the message that bullying and violence at school are not okay at any time. For more information about Bullying, No Way! please visit the website. Read More

Harmony Day

We are also celebrating Harmony Day today. Harmony Day is a day of cultural respect for everyone who calls Australia home - from the traditional owners of this land to those who have come from many countries around the world. If you are participating in a Harmony Day event today, please use #HarmonyDay on twitter to let everyone know what’s happening. Read More

eMHPrac - enhancing use of online mental health resources in primary care

eMHPrac is a national initiative to encourage the use of e-mental health resources in primary care and is funded by the Australian Government. The Australian National University will be working with allied health workers and nurses in primary care to increase their awareness of and skills in using e-mental health resources through a range of training and promotional activities over the next few years. As part of this work, the first of three annual surveys exploring workers’ awareness and use of e-resources is underway. To participate please visit the website. Download

The Sunnyboy Outreach

You may recall from previous updates our promotion of The Sunnyboy, a feature documentary following 50 year old Jeremy Oxley, the front man of 80s band The Sunnyboys as he emerges from a 30 year battle with schizophrenia. In an effort to allow this important film reach a wider audience, The Sunnyboy Outreach initiative has been formed to fund additional screenings across the country. Mental health organisations in urban, regional or rural communities who are interested in hosting a screening event should either email or visit the website for full details. More Info

SANE Australia online communities

SANE Australia is developing an online community service for carers, and for people living with mental illness. SANE Online Communities will provide a free, safe, anonymous peer-to-peer forum service where carers and people living with mental illness can share stories, tips and offer support. Introductory sessions to discuss the new service are being held in various locations around Australia, for full details please visit the website. Read more

Finding Our Way - digital story telling project launched

Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (MHiMA) and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image have this week released a rare insight into people’s experience of mental illness in migrant and refugee communities. Finding Our Way is a digital story telling project that shares the inspiring stories from people of migrant and refugee backgrounds living with emotional and mental health issues. This project is the first of its kind in Australia and allows us to gain greater insight and empathy towards people who are not only making a new life in Australia but facing mental health issues as well. The stories are available on the MHiMA website. Read more

Mood Active professional development breakfast - register now

Mood Active is hosting a professional development breakfast with guest speaker David Gilfillan on Friday 4 April in Sydney. David was a clinical psychologist at the Black Dog Institute from 2007-2012 and has thirty years experience treating mood disorders. David will speak about exercise and depression and provide practical suggestions for prescribing exercise to consumers. Full details including registration details are available on the website. Read more

Connect and Participate Expo

Looking for something to do this weekend in Canberra? Want to support mental health through better community connections? Get along to the Connect and Participate Expo on Saturday at the Old Bus Depot Markets in Kingston. This inclusive event aims to promote the importance of connecting with others and will provide attendees with the opportunity to discover the wide range of groups in Canberra including sport and outdoor, art/craft and music, performing arts and hobby groups. Read more

Books on Prescription - a new mental health literacy initiative

A pilot program of Books on Prescription has recently been launched by the Centre for Rural and Remote Health in partnership with Central West Libraries. The Books on Prescription collection will be available in libraries across Central West and Western NSW and houses a variety of books and audio and visual resources. The resources are aimed at assisting people with mild to moderate mental health issues, as well as their carers and families, to better understand their illness and to learn valuable information about how they can increase their wellbeing. Doctors in the area are being informed about the program and are very positive about prescribing the resources to their patients and families. This is the first bibliotherapy program piloted in Australia and we are very interested in its outcomes. More information about the work of the Centre for Rural and Remote Health is available on their website. Read more

TheMHS Conference registrations now open

Registrations for this year’s TheMHS Conference are now open. The conference, being held in Perth from 26-29 August, will focus on the theme ‘What we share makes us strong’. The first keynote speaker for the conference has also been annouced. Pat Bracken is a consultant psychiatrist and clinical director of West Cork Mental Health Service in Ireland. Full details are available on the website. Read more

2014 Eating Disorders and Obesity Conference program now online

The preliminary program for this year’s Eating Disorders and Obesity Conference has been released. This year’s conference will feature 33 speaker presentations, 3 workshops and 10 keynote speakers delivering a high standard of information about eating disorders and obesity. The program has a range of streams including Prevention Strategies, Risk Factors, Treatment, Recovery and Maintenance. To view the program or for more information about registering for the conference please visit the website. Read more

Activity Based Funding Conference 2014 - program announced

The program has also been announced for this year’s Activity Based Funding Conference, to be held in Melbourne from 23-25 June. The conference will focus on applying Activity Based Funding (ABF) at the local level as Australia continues to implement ABF in public hospitals. A call for Abstracts is also open, full details are on the website. Read more

Principles for collaboration, communication and cooperation between private mental health service providers

The Mental Health Professionals Network (MHPN) will be holding a webinar to discuss the principles for collaboration, communication and cooperation between private mental health service providers next Tuesday, 25 March. The principles were released last December by the Private Mental Health Alliance and aim to support mental health professionals to collaborate, communicate and, where necessary, share care.  I know these webinars have proved extremely popular in the past, so you may want to have a look at this one if you have not previously been invovled.  Registration details for the webinar are available on the MHPN website. Read more

Workshops for adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse

Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) runs workshops for adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse, as well as for partners and supports (carers) of adult survivors. ASCA also delivers trauma informed training to workers and organisations as well as professional development for health professionals who work clinically with adult survivors. With the hightened focus on childhood abuse and trauma that accompanies the Royal Commision this is a very important area of work. For more information and to register please visit the website. Read more

Warm regards


Frank Quinlan
Chief Executive Officer

T: 02 6285 3100  |  M: 0409 655 460
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