- Mortality from mental illnesses is increasing and, because they frequently occur early in the life cycle, they are the largest source of disability and reduced economic productivity of all non-communicable diseases.
- Successful mental health reform can reduce the mortality, morbidity, growing welfare costs and losses in economic productivity caused by mental illness.
- The government has largely adopted the recommendations of the National Mental Health Commission focusing on early intervention and stepwise care and will implement a reform plan that involves devolving commissioning of federally funded mental health services to primary health networks, along with a greater emphasis on e-mental health.
- Stepwise expanded investment in and structural support (data collection, evaluation, model fidelity, workforce training) for evidence-based care that rectifies high levels of undertreatment are essential for these reforms to succeed. However, the reforms are currently constrained by a cost-containment policy framework that envisages no additional funding.
- The early intervention reform aim requires financing for the next stage of development of Australia’s youth mental health system, rather than redirecting funds from existing evidence-based programs.
- People with complex, enduring mental disorders need more comprehensive care. In the context of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, there is a risk that these already seriously underserved patients may paradoxically receive a reduction in coverage.
- E-health has a key role to play at all stages of illness but must be integrated in a complementary way, rather than as a barrier to access.
- Research and evaluation are the keys to cost-effective, sustainable reform.
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