S59: From Little Things, Big Things Grow – Nothing About Us Without Us

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By September 11, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Paula Arro, Tim Heffernan

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: From Little Things, Big Things Grow – Nothing About Us Without Us

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers



Paula Arro is the Consumer and Carer Participation Coordinator for MHAOD at the Brisbane North PHN. The role includes Consumer and Carer engagement within the PHN and working externally to build the capacity for a person centred system and where there is 'nothing about us without us'. Paula currently chairs MHLEEN.

Tim Heffernan is an experienced consumer peer worker and the Mental Health Peer Coordinator for COORDINARE, South Eastern NSW PHN. He is a Deputy Commission for the Mental Health Commission of NSW. Most recently Tim has taken on the role of Consumer Co-chair for the National Mental Health Commission’s Peer Workforce Development Guidelines Steering Committee.

This symposium, led by people with a lived experience currently working in ‘identified’ lived experience roles, will cover three areas:
• Why I chose to disclose my lived experience
• How we can get a collective lived experience voice at a local and regional level, and
• How our learnings are now being rolled out across Australia to support the work of PHNs.

Part 1 - Why I chose to disclose and learnings
In the first part of the symposium the co presenters will share the pro’s and con’s of becoming a lived experience worker in a mainstream health organisation … warts and all! Some updates will be shared on current policy, programs and research to set the scene about why the lived experience workforce is a hot topic at the moment. The co-presenters will share their experiences with dealing with work/life balance, negotiating reasonable adjustments, dealing with conflicts of interest, clinical/professional attitudes and wearing multiple hats as community activists, representatives as well as being an employee in a bureaucracy.
This part of the presentation will include a discussion around the questions,
• What would be different if my role was to become one that designated lived experience as a job criteria? and
• What has been the effect of disclosure/ non-disclosure on my career path?

Part 2 - How we can get a collective lived experience voice at a local and regional level
In this part of the symposium two local examples of lived experience participation will be presented:
1. Paula Arro will explore the experiences of the Brisbane North Peer Participation in Mental Health Services (PPIMS) Network – a group of People with Lived Experience (PLE) in Brisbane North PHN who have met monthly since 2016.
2. Tim Heffernan will explore how his position, unique to PHN’s, as a Mental Health Peer Coordinator has resulted in the development of peer work networks for all peer workers in South Eastern NSW

1. Peer Participation in Mental Health Service (PPIMS)
The purpose of the Network is to ‘work collaboratively to actively participate in mental health systems and reforms’. PPIMS aims are to have a collective voice, support other PLE to get involved, have regular updates, recommend strategies to improve PLE engagement, provide advice on emerging issues and participate in co-design opportunities.
Membership includes a range of PLE who live in the region (eg. peer workers, other General Mental Health Workers who are also PLE, Volunteers, PLE Trainers, Educators, Students and academics, C&C representatives). PPIMS collects quarterly membership profile data that assists in identifying who we are as a network and gaps in representation and special interest/expertise areas of members to support particular program areas.
Activities linked with the PPIMS meetings have included scholarship programs for PLE, showcasing at a local, state, national and international forums/conferences and the process, learnings and outcomes from the PPIMS partnership with the system in developing the Brisbane North Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Alcohol and other Drugs Treatment Regional Plan. From ‘Blue Sky Dreaming through to implementing.

2. Peer Work Networks
In NSW, COORDINARE, the South Eastern NSW PHN, established the position of Mental Health Peer Coordinator in 2017 following on from comprehensive engagement processes to develop their stepped care approach to suicide prevention and mental health. A priority action from these engagement process and needs assessment was ‘exploring options and opportunities for developing the peer workforce’. As well as proactive commissioning of the peer workforce in the PHN, the MH Peer Coordinator was a key component of the peer workforce action.
Significantly the Peer Coordinator has helped establish and convene three physical peer work networks that cover the entire PHN. These networks meet quarterly for half a day for co-reflection and professional development. They are the Illawarra Shoalhaven, South Coast and Southern Tablelands Peer Worker Networks. Issues to be resolved will be explored and how learnings can be shared and potentially adopted with other PHN’s and commissioned services.
Having a person in an identified lived experience position is engagement at the highest level. A network of peer workers then provide pathways for engagement with consumers in the community. Senior peer workers from each of the two LHD’s and the PHN were on the planning group for the development of our Regional Mental Health and Suicide Prevention plan for instance.
The presentations will be followed by a discussion around the question,
• What other examples of structures that support the lived experience voice are important to you? What are the gaps?

Part 3 - How our learnings can be shared and rolled out across Australia

The final part of the symposium will focus on the creation and ongoing role of the National PHN Mental Health Lived Experience Engagement Network (MHLEEN).

In recognition of the contribution of people with a lived experience of mental illness and/or suicide as central to the mental health system, the Department of Health has developed guidelines for Primary Health Networks (PHNs) that set out a clear framework for consumer and carer participation and more recently Peer Workforce.

In June/July 2018, Brisbane North PHN was invited by the Department of Health to chair and provide secretariat support to a newly established the National PHN MHLEEN to assist in improving and embedding 'lived experience' engagement within the PHNs, commissioning cycles and commissioned services.

The key purpose of the MHLEEN is to provide support to PHNs in a way that enables them to create an enhanced operational environment that supports not only lived experience and co-design within commissioning mental health and suicide prevention services but also is mobilised from within PHNs themselves.

Membership is open to all PHNs and relevant staff with responsibility for Consumer, Carer and Lived Experience Engagement. Results from the stocktake report of current engagement activities and case studies from around Australia will also be shared.

A discussion will focus on the question:
• What is happening with consumer and carer participation in your PHN?

Tim Heffernan (Mental Health Peer Coordinator – Coordinare, South Eastern NSW PHN, Deputy Commissioner – LE, NSW Mental Health Commission), and
Paula Arro (Consumer and Carer Participation Coordinator, Brisbane North PHN, Chair National PHN Mental Health Lived Experience Engagement Network)

A panel of people with a lived experience that are currently participating and leading mental health reforms will share their learnings and insights. There will also be opportunity to table discussions.

Learning Objectives
Learning Objective 1: Current status of consumer and carer engagement across Australia in relation to Primary Mental Health care and good practice case studies
Learning Objective 2: An opportunity to have discussions and share, learn from each other in terms of co-design and co-production

Department of Health (2016) PHN Guidance for Consumer and Carer Engagement
Department of Health (2019) PHN Guidance for Peer Workforce Development in Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

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