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Election 2016: Mental health gateway to save lives

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The Hon. Sussan Ley MP Minister for Health

Mental Health Gateway to save lives

A re-elected Turnbull Coalition Government will continue delivering on our promise to develop a digital mental health gateway that will ensure Australians get the right help at the right time in a bid to stop people falling through the cracks and save lives.

Reports that some phone counselling services have had their funding ‘axed’ are therefore incorrect and misleading.

Our digital gateway is a key recommendation of the Mental Health Commission’s (MHC) landmark

Report and is being implemented in line with the guidance provided by our independent Mental Health Expert Review Committee, who were tasked with taking the MHC’s findings from paper to policy.

In addition to our digital gateway being a first point of entry to mental health services across the country, Australians will have the option to call one single phone number to access the mental health phone and online services they need.

This single phone number will act as a triage service that will put them in touch with a specialist phone or online service that is best suited to their personal circumstances.

For example, the triage service may determine a person would be best serviced by a specialist counselling service addressing LGBTIQ mental health or eating disorders, rather than a general service.

The triage service is not designed to replace existing phone counselling services, but enhance access to them.

Australians will still be able to call their preferred phone counselling service directly if they believe this is the best service to help them.

We are undertaking this crucial reform because the Mental Health Commission and Expert Reference Group found there were over 30 phone and online mental health services in Australia, but no co- ordinated way to access them.

This means people with specific mental health needs may not have been aware of specialist services or were falling through the cracks altogether.

16 May 2016

It also means many of these mental health phone services were being overburdened - or underutilised - because people were not aware of alternative services that may better suit their mental health needs.

Another key recommendation of the Mental Health Commission was that some - but not all - phone and online mental health services may be unnecessarily duplicating each other’s work and funding may be better targeted to ensure a high-quality mix of services to cover the varying mental health needs of Australians by filling service gaps.

The Coalition will therefore work with all phone and online mental services to transition to this new model of improving access to over-the-phone/online mental health services from 2017-18, including greater funding security. Until then, all services will continue to be funded at current levels.

I understand the importance of mental health organisations running fundraising drives, however it is

important their campaigning methods do not end up hurting those who they are ultimately meant to help.

Labor treated mental health as a “second-term priority”. Only the Coalition is committed to delivering these brave and bold reforms aimed at ensuring Australians with mental health issues no longer fall through the cracks.

Recommendations from the Mental Health Commission’s Landmark Report

 “Currently telephone helplines are not integrated, they do not have common standards and

there are limited referral pathways. There are various levels of duplication of target client groups and potential to be accessing the ‘wrong door’ by users.”

 “For telephone and online support services, the strategic direction is in creating a ‘joined- up’ model of crisis support helplines, with each helpline playing its part according to its expertise. This would reduce duplication, increase efficiency and enable collaborative work.”

 “Create a coordinated, better integrated model of telephone and online support services,

including crisis support and seamless pathways to online and offline information, education,

biometric monitoring and clinical intervention.”

 Improve access to services and support through innovative technologies

 “Improve emergency access to the right telephone and internet-based forms of crisis support

and link crisis support services to ongoing online and offline forms of information/education, monitoring and clinical intervention.”

 “Implement cost-effective second and third generation e-mental health solutions that build

sustained self-help, link to biometric monitoring and provide direct clinical support

strategies or enhance the effectiveness of local services.” Volume 1, page 11

Recommendations from the Mental Health Expert Reference Group Implementation Report

 “The ERG acknowledged the evidence that demonstrates telephone and e-mental health

services can play a significant role in a stepped care model of mental health service delivery if there were triaging, clinical guidelines and targeting of their use. The ERG endorsed appropriate promotion of existing self-help and clinician moderated e-mental health services to consumers and clinicians as an important component.”

 “The ERG noted the significant number of providers in this space, some of whom provide

similar or competing services. A simpler structure and a secure funding base for these services is required. A single telephone line linked as appropriate to other telephone based services was proposed. Similarly, the ERG supported the consideration of how a single gateway for web-based services could be utilised to provide initial triage and to facilitate consumer access to the most appropriate services.

 This would encourage and enable optimal use of the web-based services that are available,

particularly in the context of better promoting the availability of self-help services to individuals who could benefit from them. The ERG recommended the Commonwealth work

with the states and territories to streamline entry to all e-mental health services through one national gateway.”

 “The Commonwealth should immediately:

 Establish a single gateway and platform for initial access to existing web based


 Similarly with phone based mental health support, a single phone access point should

be established with the capacity to provide soft transfer to other phone services. Ensure a simple triage system is developed and offered through these new