S76: Fostering Mental Health in North Queensland: A PHN partnership to improve access and experience for the community.

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By September 17, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Karen Thomas, Gillian Yearsley

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: Fostering Mental Health in North Queensland: A PHN partnership to improve access and experience for the community.

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers



Karen has over 20 years’ experience working in the Community Sector; across Victoria, Tasmania and for the past 12 years in Queensland. Karen’s experience includes leadership roles in mental health, youth and homelessness services. Karen considers responsible leadership is based on creating robust, supportive, respectful and trusted working relationships.

Gill is a Registered Mental Health Nurse and holds a Masters Degree for Advanced Professional Practice in Health Care. Gill has over 30 years’ experience in mental health, primary health and hospital based services. Gill is committed to the development of a regional partnership approach to primary health commissioning.

Australian communities, consumers and service providers are reorienting to Stepped Care approaches in mental health. Community mental health funding is now flowing through the 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs) who are tasked with understanding local community needs and then commissioning appropriate services.

This paper will describe what is happening in North Queensland - Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Cape York and the Torres Strait - where the Northern Queensland PHN is working collaboratively to better understand and meet local mental health needs. With fierce commitment to improving mental health in their community the PHN has been prepared to think creatively and try new approaches to improve links between primary care and specialist mental health supports for people experiencing mental ill-health across the spectrum. Partnering with Neami National they have reoriented access to psychological and psychosocial supports in the Connect to Wellbeing program. In eight months of operation this program has eliminated waiting lists, increased access to support, directed people to more appropriate services, used online supports to service remote areas, improved feedback to referrers, and built a better understanding of need and resource availability across the region.

This program is demonstrating how authentic partnerships can deliver on hope, resilience and health.

Learning Objectives
Learning Objective 1: The audience will learn about innovative service reform, that is informed by collaborative partnering between NQPHN, service providers, primary care and specialist mental health services. How committed, robust and honest partnerships can lead to improved services that result in better outcomes.
Learning Objective 2: NQPHN identified that to improve community mental health outcomes it was critical to improve timely access to people with mental ill-health across the region and that collaboration was key to achieving this.

Leitch, E., Wright, E., Harris, M., Meurk, C., & Whiteford, H. (2016). Implementing a Stepped Care approach to mental health services within Australian Primary Health Networks Report to the Department of Health.
Meurk, C., Harris, M., Wright, E., Reavley, N., Scheurer, R., Bassilios, B., ... & Pirkis, J. (2018). Systems levers for commissioning primary mental healthcare: a rapid review. Australian Journal of Primary Health, 24(1), 29-53.

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