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North coast residents can contribute to mental health reforms

The North Coast Primary Health Network (NCPHN) is inviting people to get involved in changes to the mental health sector announced by the Australian Government last week. The move will see primary health networks (PHNs) across Australia commission all regionally delivered Commonwealth funded primary mental health services by 2018 and take a lead role in ensuring a well-integrated mental health system. Among changes announced last week, coordinated packages of care will be created for people with severe and complex needs and flexible support for mild and moderate needs; and a new Digital Mental Health Gateway will optimise the use of digital mental health services. NCPHN’s acting chief executive, Michael Carter, said PHNs were ideally placed to lead a regional approach to mental health. “We welcome the opportunity that the announcement by Minister Susan Ley provides,” Mr Carter said. “These changes will allow us to build upon work already begun with local health districts (LHDs) and other service providers, and allow us to go further in improving linkages to best meet the individual needs of consumers across our region.” NCPHN recently finalised a three-year mental health integration plan covering Northern NSW, which outlines the shared intent of agencies involved in mental health. Amongst the changes, is the creation of a $350million a year flexible funding pool that will allow PHNs to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of mental health services across their regions. Mr Carter said the process will also provide an opportunity for the community to have a say in planning mental health services in their region. “Over the next few months NCPHN will be offering community members the opportunity to help shape the future of mental health service delivery through a range of surveys and focus groups,” he said. “By doing this we will be able to build a local service system which is designed and planned around the needs of our communities and which makes the best use of available workforce and services. “Mental health affects us all, so it is essential that we consult widely in order to develop a truly integrated system that meets the needs of our community for today and into the future.” Anyone wanting to get involved in mental health reform on the north coast is encouraged to register their interest at