From 1 July, more than 25 000 mental health sessions have been commissioned across the Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network (HNECC PHN) region, to ensure priority populations can access the mental health care they need.
The Mental Health for the Priority Populations service has been commissioned following a reform of the previous Primary Mental Health Psychological service.
The objective of the service is to reach priority populations to ensure the most financially disadvantaged people across the region have access to mental health services.
Renaming the Psychological Therapies Services to Mental Health Services for Priority Populations seeks to clarify this more focused approach.
In developing the new program, several co-design workshops were held with subject matter experts within HNECC PHN, informing the service specification.
Additional factors considered in the reform included workforce availability, improving coherence and interconnectedness of clinical streams and programs to reduce service fragmentation, further development of robust governance structures and improving equity of access, particularly for people who are considered most vulnerable and/or financially disadvantaged.
The PHN Manager of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Leah Morgan said The PHN is working to improve access to services by removing barriers.
“There are many vulnerable groups within our community who are not receiving mental health support due to barriers including cost and availability,” Leah said.
“The cost of a psychology session can leave patients out of pocket more than $100. These new services will be bulk billed to overcome financial barriers and will prioritise priority populations to ensure they receive the treatment they need.”
The Mental Health Services for Priority Populations program will complement other existing mental health programs and expand the scope of the current psychological therapies that are delivered in Primary Care, whilst diversifying the service to better reach target populations.
The program focuses on a sessional model delivered by an expanded multidisciplinary team.
In addition to the 25,000+ mental health sessions under the Mental Health Services for Priority Populations program, the PHN has commissioned a new children’s mental health service with the aim of increasing access for vulnerable children.
The paediatric service provides children up to the age of 12, with 12, face-to-face sessions of psychological counselling, by two providers across the Hunter, New England and Central Coast regions, Beam Health and Uniting NSW/ACT.
The PHN CEO, Richard Nankervis said the service will mean that children who need to access mental health services would find it easier to do so.
“Our annual needs assessment identified a gap within mental health services, particularly for children in priority groups,” Richard said.
“The PHN has responded through the commissioning of this new service which complements our existing range, including headspace and Head to Health among many others.”
The service is targeted at priority population groups who have difficulty in accessing mental health treatment in the primary care sector. The programs commissioned under the children’s mental health service include Wellbeing4Kids, Little Sparks and grief and bereavement counselling for children.
Primary Health Network is a not for profit organisation primarily funded by the Commonwealth government to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the primary health care system. HNECC PHN supports GPs and other health professionals, and delivers a range of programs.