Mental Health Services
There is an extensive network of public mental health services throughout Australia. This network is divided into defined geographical areas within which a range of local and statewide specialist clinical treatment and support services for people with mental illness are provided free of charge by the Government. They include child and adolescent mental health services, adult mental health services and aged persons' mental health services and specialist statewide services.
The first point of contact during business hours for access to area mental health services is the Community Mental Health Service (CMHS). Mental health professionals employed by the CMHS provide initial screening and consultancy for people who need public mental health services to guide them to the appropriate service. They also provide assessment, treatment, continuing care and support for clients with severe mental illness. Community mental health centres employ a range of mental health professionals to provide clinical services, including social workers, psychiatric nurses, consultant psychiatrists, occupational therapists, medical officers and psychologists.
The Crisis Assessment and Treatment Services (CATS) provide urgent assessment and short term intensive treatment throughout the community to people in crisis due to a mental illness. This includes assessing the most available service options for the person. CATS provide treatment and support for people whose acute mental illness can be managed in the community with intensive outreach support as an alternative to hospitalisation. They can also respond to people presenting at immediate risk of suicide. CATS operate 24 hours, 7 days a week.
In addition the Primary mental health and early intervention teams (PMHEI) support and enhance the capacity of general practitioners and community health services to recognise and respond to mental illnesses more effectively. They provide consultation, liaison, education and training services with a particular focus on depression and anxiety.
Better Outcomes in Mental Health Care Initiative
The Better Outcomes in Mental Health Care Initiative was established in Australia to provide financial and other supports for the work of general practitioners in providing mental health care to Australians, to provide a broad range of care options.
The key components of the initiative are:
- education and training for general practitioners to complete the 3 Step Mental Health Process that includes an assessment, a mental health plan and a review,
- the provision of Medicare rebates to encourage appropriately trained general practitioners to provide evidence based psychological services and referral to psychological and other allied health services to support their patients with mental illness; and
- Access to Psychiatrist Support to enable psychiatrists and GPs to participate in case conferencing and for psychiatrists to provide emergency advice to support GPs.
Private Mental Health Services
Private psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors and inpatient mental health services are major providers of mental health services. Access to these services requires private health insurance, usually under special extras and can be limited by ling waiting lists. Most private mental health services are outpatient based, and the length of hospital stay in private inpatient clinics can be determined by private health fund rebates.
For many people private mental health services provide a service that is more individualized, ensures continuity of care and offers particular expertise in different areas of mental health care. Continuity of care is valued by some people and their families.
Information about psychiatrists and their special interests is available from private psychiatrist group practices, Area Mental Health Services and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.