Review of Mental Health Programs and Services

Page last updated: 23 June 2017

The Australian Government is developing a more effective mental health system that improves the lives of Australians with or at risk of mental illness.

On 26 November 2015, the Australian Government announced its response to the National Mental Health Commission's Review of mental health services and supports. The reforms will transform Commonwealth mental health funding and program delivery over the next three years to achieve a more efficient, integrated and sustainable mental health system and to improve mental health services for Australians.

Central to the Government’s mental health system reforms are:

  • Person centred care, including packages of care for those with complex needs;
  • Planning, integrating and commissioning of services at a regional level;
  • Delivering services within a stepped care approach, to better target services to meet individual and local needs;
  • Effective early intervention across the lifespan;
  • Making optimal use of digital mental health services; and
  • Strengthened national leadership to support systemic change.

The Government is taking immediate action in the following concrete, interconnected areas:

  • A regional approach, led by Primary Health Networks (PHNs), to plan, integrate and commission mental health services at a local level, in partnership with relevant services and with a new flexible primary mental health care funding pool.
  • Development of a consumer friendly Digital Mental Health Gateway that optimises use of digital mental health services and technology. The Gateway and associated phone line will act as a form of triage to assist people to access the most appropriate online and telephone services based on their specific needs.
  • Refocusing primary mental health care programs and services to support a stepped care model.
  • Joined up support for child mental health, linking efforts in health, education and social support.
  • A more equitable and integrated approach to youth mental health, commissioned by PHNs, to provide early intervention support to a broader group of young people with or at risk of severe mental illness.
  • An integrated approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and social and emotional wellbeing services, commissioned by PHNs to better plan and integrate services in their region.
  • A new approach to suicide prevention, focusing in particular on evidence and community-based suicide prevention activities to address local needs, and better integration with state and territory activities.
  • The phased introduction of packaged care arrangements to support clinical care coordination for people with severe mental illness and complex needs who are managed in primary care.
  • Strong Commonwealth leadership to support implementation of the mental health reforms and to facilitate system change and partnerships at all levels. This includes working with states and territories to develop the Fifth National Mental Health Plan.

Over the next five years (2016-17 to 2020-21) $3.5 billion will be invested in mental health programs through the Department of Health.

On 19 December 2016, the Australian Government confirmed its commitment to provide $194.5 million over four years to strengthen mental health care in Australia. Building on this, in the 2017-18 Budget, the Government announced more than $170 million over four years to further improve mental health services.

These measures will focus on new and innovative models of mental health care, as well as better support for young people and those at risk of suicide.

On 23 March 2017, the Government announced the establishment of a Primary Health Network Advisory Panel on Mental Health, an independent committee established to provide advice to support the Government’s plans to improve the delivery of frontline mental health services. The Advisory Panel is an important step that will provide valuable support to the 31 PHNs in delivering the Government’s reforms to mental health and suicide prevention across Australia.

Improving the mental health system and outcomes for people with mental illness can only be done in partnership with consumers, carers, mental health stakeholders and state and territory governments. The Australian Government is committed to continued consultation and engagement as we move forward and implement these critical reforms.