The Australian Government announced “sweeping reforms” to how we support people with mental health issues. What are the reforms and are they good news?
The Prime Minister says mental health is an economic issue that “gnaws away at productivity” – stopping people working and participating in life.
More importantly it’s having a devastating impact on the health and well being of 4 million Australians a year who suffer from some form of mental health issue.
The Government’s new reforms come out of recommendations from the National Health Commission’s review of mental health programs and services last year.
In short they’re designed to end the “one size fits all” approach to treating people with a mental illness.
Instead the Government’s talking a “stepped care” approach, which provides care according to a person’s needs at the time.
That means co-ordinated packages of care will be created for people with severe and complex needs, and flexible support for mild and moderate needs.
And in response to criticism from the Commission about the fragmented health care system, mental health services will be commissioned through local Primary Health Networks.
There will also be a new digital mental health gateway and a single dedicated hotline for people needing help.
The Government says the package will cost $10 billion a year.
So what does it mean for the NDIS?
It’s good news. The Government’s response to the Commission Review says the NDIS represents an “unprecedented opportunity for people with disability arising from mental illness to access support”.
The new reforms will:
- Make sure mental health assessments and care co-ordinate with NDIS supports;
- Ensure “that the NDIS delivers on its promise of … choice and control for people with disability, including people eligible for the scheme due to a disability arising from mental illness”;
- Learn from NDIS trial sites to make sure people with psychosocial disability are well supported and their service providers understand what the transition means;
- Continue support for people with severe mental illness who are not eligible for the NDIS; and
- Review progress of the NDIS roll out to make sure it’s improving the lives pf people with psychosocial disability.
The Reaction so far
So far support for the reforms have been positive – although there are questions about how they will be delivered on the ground and calls for more detail.