Politics Sector News — 26 November 2015

Australians with severe and complex mental illness will have access to tailor-made care packages as part of the federal government’s plan to shake-up the ailing mental health system.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is set to unveil the government’s reform package on Thursday, seven months after the release of a damning major review into the mental health system.

Under the new reforms, mentally-ill Australians deemed eligible by a health professional will be given the option of an integrated care package.

Packages will cover assessment and care-coordination support, psychological services, mental health nursing, drug and alcohol services, vocational assistance and peer support.

The existing one-size-fits-all system entitles sufferers on a Mental Health Plan to a maximum of 10 Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions each year.

The National Mental Health Commission’s report, released in April, raised concerns the blanket approach failed to support people with complex needs, especially those with multiple mental health issues.

Health Minister Sussan Ley says the new individualised care packages are optional and people will still be able to access fee-for-service psychological services under the existing system.

They’ll be phased in over three years from early 2016/17, with initial trial sites to be identified within the next seven months.”

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,” Ms Ley said.

“Experts recognise many patients with severe or complex mental health needs would benefit from an integrated healthcare package tailored to their individual needs and that’s what we’re delivering.”

Ms Ley says the packages will be commissioned through Primary Health Care networks so services can be tailored to local communities, allowing better access for those in regional areas.

An expert reference group charged with advising the government on how the Commission’s 25 recommendations could be implemented reported back to Ms Ley last month.

Mental health is the third biggest chronic disease in Australia behind cancer and heart disease, affecting four to five million people each year, Ms Ley said.

This article first appeared on ‘Sky News’ on 26 November 2015.

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