A blueprint for mental health

As we grapple with a slow burning pandemic and its social and economic consequences, sustaining the mental health of individuals, families, workplaces, communities, and entire nations has never been more important.

Although Western Australians have some of the best health outcomes in the world, health service provision is not uniform across WA which, among other contributing factors, has a profound effect on health care utilisation and outcomes.

While all parties involved are doing their level best, what we have is misaligned governance, planning and funding that leads to a multiplicity of providers, with competing and overlapping objectives and incentives and little integration.

Ergo, the system is unbalanced because the drivers are, and simply funding more services in those locations with a higher than average rate of disadvantage, for example, is not the answer.

It is more complex and requires a systemic approach and a multilevel integrated approach to commissioning. It also requires physical and mental health to be treated holistically, and neither ignored at the expense of the other.

Set against this challenging backdrop, we are launching WA Primary Health Alliance’s Mental Health Strategy 2020 – 2023 and associated Mental Health Framework which, together, communicate the scope of our mental health activities and how we will apply our approaches.

The Mental Health Strategy is our blueprint for mental health and has been developed to complement our Strategic Plan 2020-2023.

Being the first of several pillar strategies under development reflects the importance we place as a commissioner on mental health services, which account for approximately half or $68 million of our annual program expenditure.

To put this into perspective, we estimate this amount comprises about five per cent of the total mental health budget for Western Australia. Clearly, we must use our finite share of the funding pie wisely to achieve maximum impact.

This is the crux of the Strategy which outlines our multilevel, integrated approach to commissioning.

Aligned with our Strategic Priorities, we will aim for precision in commissioning, system integration through collaboration, continuous improvement, person-centred care and increased access for people with the greatest need.

Importantly, we will further strengthen the link between general practice and the mental health services we commission, to increase awareness among GPs and enable referrals.

While we have a clear picture of where we are and where we are going, this is a maturing approach that we will continue to refine, as we reflect and prioritise our thinking.

In closing, I see this as a journey we are committed to taking alongside our key partners being other commissioning agencies, general practitioners, service providers and communities as we create a more unified mental health system, together.

Learne Durrington

CEO WA Primary Health Alliance