I was thrilled to be part of a Showcase event this week that marked both the culmination and beginning of an exciting chapter for our region. It’s the culmination of an extensive commissioning process and the beginning for a number of programs that are being rolled out to address drug, alcohol and mental health issues across our region.
In response to the National Ice Taskforce Final Report and the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services, the Federal Government announced that Primary Health Networks (PHNs) would be the conduit for commissioning frontline services.
PHNs play a vital role facilitating the marriage of local knowledge and best practice and we are pleased that primary health care is being recognised as the cornerstone of a good health system. We know from research from around the world that a strong primary health care system is essential for a good health system. For mental health, PHNs are now the regional fund holders for mental health services in primary care and aim to deliver them within a person centred stepped care framework.
Commissioning is a word bandied around and often not well understood. We view commissioning as a thorough continuing process for ensuring services meet the needs of our community, rather than a one size fits all service rolled out nationally. We know different regions have different population needs and priorities.
A significant first step in commissioning that we have focused on in the last 12 months since receiving funds for mental health and AOD services has been identifying service gaps, priorities and community needs as well as co-designing services that consider our unique community and best practice. We are committed to doing this in close consultation with other stakeholders and consumers and the community. This takes time, but we take this very seriously and have developed strong relationships and valuable guidance throughout the process. Consultation and collaboration is the bedrock of our work and we will continue to work closely with stakeholders especially as the landscape becomes more locally focused.
After substantial consultation, and guided by our many advisory committees, Nepean Blue Mountains PHN (NBMPHN) embarked on an extensive expression of interest process which resulted in more than 13 contracts being awarded to a range of organisations that address drug and alcohol and mental health issues in its various stages. All the proposals we received were impressive and we are pleased that we attracted and, were able to commission, some organisations that are award winners in their field as well as local organisations undertaking innovative new programs.
We are particularly pleased that we have been able to go some way towards addressing the often neglected areas of ongoing follow up care after treatment and support for people with both mental health and drug and alcohol issues who are often excluded from siloed treatment programs as well as culturally appropriate services for the Aboriginal community.
Some services are focused on building the capacity of local communities or professional development for the primary healthcare workforce, others are delivering early intervention, aftercare or relapse services. Some services will work with local GPs and Practice Staff, others are aimed at women, young people or people exiting the justice system. We are particularly pleased to go some way towards addressing the often neglected areas of aftercare and dual diagnosis as well as overcome some of the service gaps in our region for the Aboriginal community.
While they will all be working on their own distinct areas, service providers recognise that they are part of the bigger picture which is increasing the quality of life for people affected by drugs and alcohol or mental health issues.