For the first time, Australians with a severe and complex mental illness will have access to an integrated care package tailored to their individual needs, as part of broad, bold reforms to be unveiled by the Turnbull Government today.
Minister for Health Sussan Ley said the Government’s full mental health reform package would reshape the delivery of primary mental health services towards a more modern, flexible model of care, rather than the current “one-size-fits-all” approach.
Ms Ley said part of the package would see people identified by health professionals as needing complex care services eligible to access a package of integrated health services, including: comprehensive assessment and care-coordination support; psychological services; mental health nursing; drug and alcohol services; vocational assistance; and peer support.
“The Australian Government directly funds mental health services delivered through primary care, where the number one aim is to keep a patient well and out-of-hospital,” Ms Ley said.
“Just like any other chronic disease, mental illness is often complex and requires access to multiple health professionals and support services to address it properly.
“Experts recognise many patients with severe or complex mental health needs would benefit from an integrated health care package tailored to their individual needs and that’s what we’re delivering.”
Ms Ley said the arrangements would be phased in over three years from early 2016-17, with initial trial sites to be identified during this current financial year (2015-16).
Currently, people with a mental illness are entitled to a maximum of 10 Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions per year if their GP places them on a Mental Health Plan.
Both the Mental Health Commission Review and the Government’s Expert Reference Group raised concerns this blanket approach was not adequately supporting all people with complex needs, particularly those battling multiple mental health-related issues.
However, Ms Ley said this was about “consumer choice” and people would be able to continue to access psychological services under the current fee-for-service Medicare model if they wished.
Ms Ley said the new integrated care packages would be commissioned through the Government’s 31 Primary Health Networks covering Australia, allowing services to be tailored to specific needs in local communities.
Ms Ley said this would particularly ensure Australians in regional areas were better supported, as they did not currently always have access to timely psychological services when actually needed under the current fee-for-service Medicare system.
“This is evidenced by the fact current Medicare spending on psychological services for people in major cities is more-than-double that per capita of people in outer regional and remote areas.”
Between four and five million Australians suffer some form of mental health issue in any one given year, seeing it ranked the third largest chronic disease in the country, only behind cancer and cardiovascular disease.