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Communique 19 November, Sydney

National Mental Health Commission Meeting
19 November 2015


The National Mental Health Commission held its 27th meeting on Thursday 19 November in Sydney. National Mental Health Commissioners welcomed presentations and discussion on the progress of the Australian Mental Health Care Classification, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Primary Health Networks, with a particular focus on the challenges experienced by rural and regional communities.

Australian Mental Health Care Classification

The Independent Hospital Pricing Authority (IPHA) briefed Commissioners on the development and progress to date of the Australian Mental Health Care Classification (MHCC). The aim of the Classification is to achieve transparency, value for money, independence, national comparability and efficiency. A national efficient price will be used to determine Commonwealth funding for Local Hospital Networks.

The Classification is a work in progress, with work focusing on the whole of person, including psychosocial factors, such as families and carers. The new Classification will look to inform the type (and cost) of mental health care – its aim is to better describe how mental health care is provided and understand what it costs. In doing so, the Classification will also establish a data collection system to be utilised for better decision making.

Refinement and further consultation is required before the MHCC is finalised and rolled out. The Commissioners noted the public consultation paper process and requested a future briefing as work on the Classification progresses.

National Disability Insurance Scheme

With the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to commence in 2016, representatives of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Department of Health (DoH) updated Commissioners on the progress and future directions of the scheme, as well as key learnings from the Hunter NSW trial site.

The NDIS is progressively evolving through feedback received from trial sites and the choices available to eligible participants under the scheme continue to ensure mental health recovery is being supported. Engagement with people with lived experience, carers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people are particular highlights from the trial sites.

Eligibility under the scheme remains a key issue, with the continuation of services and care for individuals who do not meet the requirements under the NDIS (including people who access respite care programs outside the scheme) a focus of discussion. Commissioners committed to seeking further information regarding eligibility under the NDIS and the continuation of service provision as the scheme is rolled out.

Primary Health Networks

The Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network (PHN) provided an overview of their network and experiences from within the region. Commissioners were also informed of the work being done to improve primary health coordination in the region.

Within the region, a number of challenges exist, including:

  • Barriers to accessing existing mental health services (time, cost, distance and lack of transport).
  • Limited coordination of mental health services.
  • Working across a large geographical area with its own diversity of local differences and issues.

Furthermore, the region experiences higher rates than the national average in the areas of chronic mental health issues (one in seven people), as well as self-harm and hospitalisations for the 15 to 24 year age group.

Work is currently being undertaken to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health through access to culturally appropriate services, recognition and response in service design and increasing community capacity to respond to mental illness and suicide. The PHN has set up local people banks (enabling input from people with a lived experience and their carers) and this measure is helping to facilitate a deeper understanding of the health needs of the local communities within the region. Areas of focus for the PHN include suicide and self-harm, as well as improving access to services for young people, mothers and children.

Commissioners acknowledged the work and challenges of the Hunter New England and Central Coast PHN including the work to improve the representation of people with lived experience of mental health issues and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  Commissioners expressed interest in continuing to engage with PHNs and their ongoing work to coordinate mental health services.

19 November 2015

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