Rural mental health deserves better

Shadow Mental Health Minister Senator Jan McLucas and Labor Rural and Regional Health Spokesperson Stephen Jones share concerns about mental health services in the bush.

OPINION: Mount Isa is a sprawling mining town of some 22,000 people in remote, outback Queensland with a large fly-in fly-out workforce, low levels of schooling and a reputation for hard work. Access to many of the primary mental health care and community mental health care services is complicated and poorly integrated. Resources are stretched.

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Western NSW Medicare Local named network’s lead agency

THE federal government has selected a consortium as the “preferred potential operator” of the new Western NSW Primary Health Network (PHN).

Western NSW Medicare Local (WML) is the lead agency in the consortium.

WML chief executive officer Jenny Beange has told of its “exclusive” talks with the Department of Health.

“We will work with all partner organisations to ensure rapid establishment of the PHN and a smooth transition of services from Medicare Locals,” she said.

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Mental health response slammed

MENTAL health experts are dismayed by the federal government's long-awaited response to a National Mental Health Commission report that paints a "disturbing picture" of failures of care and support for ordinary Australians living with mental illness.

Report co-author and psychiatrist Ian Hickie on Thursday called for States that cut funding to mental health to be "named and shamed" and layers of health bureaucracy to be slashed, with the government to fund local health authorities directly and bypass State and federal authorities. Instead, the government promised a revived "national approach" and new expert working group and a number of panels to deal with the report, which Health Minister Sussan Ley acknowledged painted a "disturbing picture" of mental health care across the country.

 "The review shows that fragmentation in the system is seeing far too many people still slipping through the cracks," she said. "We cannot continue to place band-aids on the mental health system and expect it to heal itself".

Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services

The Commonwealth Government tasked the National Mental Health Commission with conducting a national review of mental health programmes and services. The focus of the review was on assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of programmes and services in supporting individuals experiencing mental ill-health and their families and other support people to lead a contributing life and to engage productively in the community.

The review has now been released. The Review provides 25 recommendations across 9 strategic directions which guide a detailed implementation framework of activity over the next decade. Taken together, they form a strong, achievable and practical plan to reform Australia's mental health system.

The Review is framed on the basis of making changes within existing resources, as specified by the Terms of Reference provided to the Commission by the Commonwealth Government.The several supporting reports include several specific to rural and Indigenous health.

Far west "under-serviced" for drug support services: rehab operator

A drug rehabilitation provider is urging the Federal Government to create more treatment facilities in the state's west as part of a push to address ice addiction.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says the new national taskforce on ice, announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week, will prioritise rural and regional Australia.

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New Primary Health Networks to deliver better local care

Australian patients are set to receive better access to frontline health services in their local area as part of the Abbott Government’s plans to improve the health of the nation, with the country’s new Primary Health Network (PHN) on track to begin rolling out from July 1.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley today announced the successful applicants to run PHNs across the country following a thorough tender process run at arm’s length by the Department of Health.

PHNs will replace Labor’s  Medicare Local system of 61 fragmented regions, which were found by an independent review to: deliver inconsistent health services; administration expenditure of up to 40 per cent of all costs; and lack transparency, with examples of taxpayers funds used to pay for staff parking tickets and gifts.

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Ice Taskforce missing the point: Lynn Field

She knows children as young as 14 who are using drugs and it is those youth Nguumambiny Indigenous Corporation manager Lynn Field said would not be helped by the new ice taskforce.

The National Ice Taskforce was announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday. It will examine current efforts to address the issue before preparing an interim report which will be presented to the Prime Minister in June.

Ms Field said the taskforce was only addressing part of the problem. "It'll have an impact but it'll only be a criminal-based one. You'll still have kids running around selling drugs," she said.

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Health report not big news in rural Aust

ONE of the largest studies into adult use of mental health services in Australia has revealed that those individuals who need them most - including those living in rural and remote areas - are missing out.

The Monash University study looked at 25 million Medicare-supported mental health services provided between 2007 and 2011. It found people who lived in disadvantaged, rural and remote areas were more likely to miss out on health and it highlighted the top fifth of Australian society had about three times better access to psychological services than the bottom fifth.

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Advance care planning in palliative care

Two open access articles in the latest issue of Australian Health Review (Volume 39, no.2, 2015) have addressed advance care planning.

Advance care planning in palliative care: a national survey of health professionals and service managers by Marcus Sellars, William Silvester, Malcolm Masso and Claire E. Johnson, aimed to identify the attitudes, knowledge and practices regarding ACP in palliative care by means of a survey. The results demonstrated that there "is a need to improve systems to support ACP and to understand circumstances in which ACP wishes are not followed."

Palliative care health professionals' experiences of caring for patients with advance care directives by Claire E. Johnson, Rachel Singer, Malcolm Masso, Marcus Sellars and William Silvester, further examined this topic by another open survey. Results here indicated that advance care planning benefits health professionals, patients and their family. "To maximise these benefits, ACDs need to be clear, comprehensive, medically relevant and transportable documents."

Social and cultural determinants of mental health

The social and cultural determinants of mental health: Collective responsibilities, individualism, austerity and entitlements consists of 5 essays from the Gavin Mooney Memorial Essay Competition. They look at mental health from various perspectives.

The winning essay was written by El Gibbs and is titled, "A place to call home: housing security and mental health". Runners up were Malcolm Forbes, a medical registrar and researcher; medical writer Olivia Hibbitt; poet Sandy Jeffs and sociologist Margaret Leggatt; and Stephen Wright, a writer and counsellor.

The compilation was recently published by the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, and is available freely online.

Australian Burden of Disease Study: Fatal burden of disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2010 (AIHW)

Australian Burden of Disease Study: Fatal burden of disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2010 is the second report in the Australian Burden of Disease Study series. It provides estimates of fatal burden for 2010 for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population as well as estimates of the gap in fatal burden between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Injuries and cardiovascular diseases contributed the most fatal burden for Indigenous Australians (22% and 21% respectively), followed by cancer (17%).

Subsequent reports in this series will provide estimates of the non-fatal burden and the contribution of various risk factors to disease burden in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

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