There are few areas seemingly as complex as mental health, given that responsibility for policy and service lies across all three tiers of Australian government and across multiple jurisdictions. It also engages public, private and non-government sectors. Co-morbidities are commonplace, particularly drug and alcohol problems among younger people.
Governments in Australia have traditionally taken responsibility for policy, programs and services, either as direct service providers or through contracting outputs from others. Yet the evidence indicates that for people with a mental illness, the best solutions are often not found in government but in the community and in organisations outside of government. New organisations and new structures are attempting more holistic management approaches, combining clinical care, community support, housing, employment and other services.
This paper considers some of these new models in the light of existing evidence. The key challenge facing continued reform in mental health is not uncertainty regarding programs or services, but rather how to drive coordinated care for consumers across departments, governments and providers. This review highlights the key changes that must be made for the benefit of the millions of Australians with a mental illness.