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Mental health sector comes together to improve rural and remote access to care

Mental Health Australia submits senate inquiry into the improvement of accessibility and quality of mental health services

The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs has recently closed submissions into the improvement of accessibility and quality of mental health services in rural and remote Australia.

Mental Health Australia is collaborating with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RDFS) and the National Rural Health Alliance to formulate a recommendation to address the insufficiency of mental health services in rural and remote communities.

The submission recommends tasking the Council of Australian Governments Health Council (COAG) with a refreshed mental health strategy that would address opportunities for Primary Health Networks (PHNs).

“The COAG Health Council should be tasked to develop a rural mental health strategy, informed by a coalition prepared by the National Mental Health Commission of the PHN service mapping in rural and remote areas and other key data that identifies service shortfalls,” the recommendation read.

According to RDFS data, factors that worsen consumers’ mental health outcomes in rural and remote communities include poor access to sufficient care, the limited numbers of mental health services, and concerns about stigma.

The submissions will make specific reference to the nature and underlying causes of rural and remote Australians accessing mental health services at a lower rate, despite the higher rate of suicide and attitudes of stigma and shame.

“The Commission should also be tasked with monitoring and overseeing implementation of the strategy, reporting back directly to the COAG Health Council.”

The recommendation highlights that responsibility for mental health in rural Australian communities needs to be shared across jurisdictional boundaries.

Mental Health Australia also points out the economic impact of policy changes, which may also affect mental health outcomes and should be accounted for by the government.

The recommendation reads that the transition process of incorporating mental health care into these areas has been “hastily planned” and “poorly communicated.”

“[The transition] has already created significant gaps in psychosocial services for people with psychological disability who are ineligible for the National Disability Scheme and less than desirable experiences and outcomes for NDIS participants.”

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