Murrumbidgee PHN welcomes overhaul of country's mental health system

The head of the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (PHN) believes under federal government changes to mental health support, services will soon be managed by local people, for local people.

Health Minister and Farrer MP, Sussan Ley, said the government is also looking to establish a single mental health hotline, that all people will be able to access.

Murrumbidgee PHN CEO, Nancye Piercy, said under the changes, the federal government's $350m mental health budget will be split between the nation's 31 primary health networks to deliver commissioned, localised support services.

She said it will provide a more flexible approach to meeting individual needs.

It's a very big challenge for how we're going to regionally plan and deliver and commission these services and work with the providers out there and get co-ordinated care.

Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network CEO, Nancye Piercy

"At the moment, there's numerous different little programs, silo programs, and these will be condensed into one stream of funding and we'll have our local stakeholders involved with the Primary Healthcare Networks to plan and identify the needs and arrange for the delivery of services," she said.

Ms Piercy admits it will involve a huge amount of work, but she believes it will allow a more flexible service to better assist those with mental health issues.

"We've always argued that services planned at a local level are much more effective," she said.

"Each community is different, each region is different and very, very different to the urban areas in large cities, and I think that will help us avoid any gaps and duplication even."

The federal government is assuring health care providers a single mental health hotline across the country will be efficient and well resourced.

Ms Piercy said it will be good to have one phone number to refer people to.

"So we're assured that the line will provide for child, youth, adults and the aged," she said.

"It will provide all services, early intervention or knowledge or whether they are needing help, they'll have one number to ring to get access to that.

"We're assured that will be an efficient, well resourced service that will be available."

Ms Piercy said the transition to the new system could take three years.

"It's a very big challenge for how we're going to regionally plan and deliver and commission these services and work with the providers out there and get co-ordinated care," she said.

"Better pathways, I guess that's what it's all about, better pathways for the mentally ill."

Ms Piercy said continuity of care will be paramount during the changes.

"We won't really understand, I don't believe, the impact of this until we really get into the planning and delivery and the community starts to see some changes, is when it's really going to be exciting," she said.

"But there's many challenges ahead, we've got to maintain services no matter where they're being delivered at the moment, until we get the planned services being commissioned out."

From www.abc.net.au

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Cristy Houghton