11 April 2017

Canberrans experiencing symptoms of a mild to moderate mental health condition, with barriers to accessing Medicare services can now access free primary mental health support through the “Next Step” mental health program. 

Today Capital Health Network (CHN), ACT’s primary health network, joined with CatholicCare and Woden Community Service to launch the first integrated primary mental health stepped care program of its kind in Australia.

“Canberrans with mental illness can now access “Next Step” which provides greater flexibility for them to access services that will meet their changing needs.  This stepped care approach to mental health will make real inroads into lifting the overall rate of access to mental health care in the ACT, as well as improved clinical outcomes for individuals,” said Gaylene Coulton, CHN Chief Executive.

Stepped care models ensure that clients are offered the most appropriate intervention at the right time.  Clients can be stepped up or down into the most appropriate intervention without requiring a new referral or having to navigate a fragmented system by themselves, while receiving high quality, consistent, outcomes driven care.  

“Next Step” will add a new high intensity service to provide effective psychological interventions for people with moderate to severe symptoms of a mental health condition, who have barriers to accessing treatment through Medicare.  Through the Commonwealth Government’s ACT PHN programme, CHN has engaged CatholicCare as the Lead Agency for the new service.  CatholicCare is delivering high intensity psychological interventions for people with moderate to severe presentations and have partnered with Woden Community Service, who will deliver low intensity psychological interventions for people with mild to moderate symptoms, formally the NewAccess programme.

“Next Step aims to help vulnerable people who face financial barriers or access barriers to services. This may include children, youth, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.  It will help diversify our local primary mental health service landscape and ensure continuity of care for clients of mental health services,” said Ms Coulton.

CHN successfully piloted a low intensity psychological support service over the past three years, one of only two PHNs providing such a service.  Approximately 9% of the ACT population will experience mild symptoms of a mental illness, mostly anxiety and depression.  Woden Community Service is now providing this valuable low intensity service into which people can self-refer.

“Approximately 7% of the ACT population may experience moderate to severe mental disorders.  CHN has engaged CatholicCare to provide a new high intensity service so clients can access free face-to-face care from mental health professionals across a six to 18 session basis.  Clients jointly agree to treatment goals with their mental health professional and, with the consent of the client, the mental health professional will communicate with their treating GP or clinician throughout treatment,” said Ms Coulton.

Capital Health Network is the ACT’s primary health network supporting health professionals to improve the coordination of care so that patients receive the right care in the right place at the right time.