Local partnerships between legal and health services could act as a powerful early intervention program and improve access to justice for people with mental illness, according to a new paper released today.
The position paper, Health Justice Partnerships in New South Wales, arose from work undertaken by the Health Justice Partnerships Community of Practice that includes the Mental Health Commission of NSW, Legal Aid NSW and other health and legal organisations.
Health Justice Partnership (HJPs) at their core are a partnership between health and legal professionals aimed at addressing inequities for populations who experience disadvantage. While HJPs are relatively new in Australia, they have played a central role in creating a more equitable and humane system in the United States and the paper’s intent is to promote the practice here.
Unresolved legal issues can negatively impact on a person’s health, causing stress and anxiety. Likewise, poor health can inhibit someone’s ability to seek legal help.
A recent legal needs survey found that people with disability (including mental illness) or chronic illness are more likely to go their doctor for help with a legal issue than a lawyer. HJPs respond to this issue by bringing the services to where people are most likely to look for assistance.
“This is about providing responsive services in the community. It is the embodiment of the holistic, no wrong door approach that we are trying to achieve in supporting people who experience mental illness,” said NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley.
“By working together health and legal practitioners can prevent a lot of individual suffering as well as creating substantial savings for the community.
“This project goes to the heart of the Commission’s task of improving the mental health and wellbeing of people in every part of their life, whether that is housing, employment, access to justice or community development.”
The Commission would like to acknowledge those organisations that contributed to the development of the paper including Redfern Community Legal Centre, Legal Aid NSW, the Law and Justice Foundation, the Department of Family and Community Services and South East Sydney Local Health District.
Media and Communications Advisor
NSW Mental Health Commission
Ph: 02 9859 5237 / 0477 763 909
About the Mental Health Commission of New South Wales
The Mental Health Commission of NSW was established under the Mental Health Commission Act 2012 and came into operation on 1 July 2012. The Commission is an independent statutory authority established with the purpose of monitoring, reviewing and improving the mental health system and the mental health and wellbeing of the people of NSW. In all its work the Commission aims to reflect the experience of people who live with mental illness, their families and carers.
 Legal Australia-Wide Survey – Legal Need Survey