Taking on the challenge of change
In accepting all 141 Actions in Living Well: A Strategic Plan for Mental Health in NSW 2014-2024, the NSW Government committed to a “once-in-a-generation” overhaul of its response to mental health needs, including social, educational, housing, employment and justice dimensions as well as mental health care and support.
The Government’s $115 million initial investment in improving mental health services, making them more responsive to individual needs and supporting people to stay out of hospital and in their community whenever possible, sets the scene for fundamental changes to be progressively rolled out over the next decade. This investment includes the following initiatives:
- Development of new community accommodation options and transition plans for 380 people who are currently in long-term hospital care, with appropriate levels of support based on individual need
- The Project Air strategy for people living with complex personality disorders
- Expansion of the LikeMind one-stop mental health service delivery model
- Expansion of the Youth Community Living Support Services program to prevent the need for hospital admission among young people with severe mental illness
- Improved support through the Sustaining NSW Families program for mothers experiencing or at risk of post-natal depression
In addition, a number of new initiatives and policies have been announced by Government agencies that correspond to Actions in the Strategic Plan. These include:
- The Department of Education and Communities’ $167 million Supported Students, Successful Students package, which increases by 45% the Government’s commitment to student welfare are includes $81 million for 263 additional school counsellors
- The Department of Premier and Cabinet’s invitation to the community-managed and private sectors to contribute Social Impact Investment ideas with potential to reduce the number of people hospitalized for mental health problems for extended periods
- Disability Inclusion action plans that ensure people who experience psychosocial disability as a consequence of mental illness are appropriately considered in disability policy in NSW
The Government has convened an Implementation Task Force of senior agency representatives to oversee the development of a co-ordinated whole of government approach to implementing mental health reforms. The Commission sits on the Task Force as an observer.
It is now the responsibility of Government to determine how agencies can best meet their own challenges in creating better systems of mental health support and improving mental health and wellbeing in NSW, based on their own expert knowledge of the needs of their communities, their organisational capacity and their budgets.
The Commission encourages agencies to develop their own implementation plans when they have determined how they will approach these commitments.
In determining how to monitor the progress towards achieving the directions and specific actions outlined in Living Well, the Commission keeps its focus on the following vision:
The people of New South Wales have the best opportunity for good mental health and wellbeing, and to live well in their own communities and on their own terms
The Commission is working with Government to define a series of core objectives and outcomes that need to be achieved in order for this vision to be fulfilled, and to determine how best to monitor progress in achieving these.
Reporting on progress
The Commission will report independently to the community, via the Minister for Mental Health and the Parliament, on the progress and impact of mental health reform. The perspectives of people who live with mental illness, and their families and carers, will be an important part of this reporting.
The Commission will report on the preliminary steps taken by Government agencies to ensure they are ready to implement significant change, in the first year of reform activity following the release of the Strategic Plan. Reform at such a scale can only be achieved through collective and collaborative approaches between mental health professionals, service providers and agencies, and the Commission will consider what is being done to support this.