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People’s mental health is best supported if services work together to addresses their individual needs. Strategic partnerships between organisations are critical to achieving this goal.

NCOSS has been advocating for community delivered mental health services which are responsive to local context. Currently, Primary Health Networks (PHNs) are preparing to commission mental health services in response to local needs assessments, presenting an invaluable opportunity to put partnerships into action.

Recognising this opportunity, NCOSS, together with the Mental Health Coordinating Council (MHCC), NSW/ACT Primary Health Networks (PHNs), Health Consumers NSW and the Mental Health Commission of NSW, hosted a forum exploring the potential for partnerships that will enhance the delivery of mental health services. Held on 18 May, the forum was attended by over 100 representatives from PHNs, Local Health Districts (LHDs), FACS, consumers and the community sector.

To open the forum, Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley and  FaCS Deputy Secretary Maree Walk gave an overview of the current context - describing overlapping reform processes and identifying opportunities for change. Consumer advocate Tim Heffernan then gave a moving presentation that highlighted the importance of locally delivered services, centred on the person, with the aim of creating a good life. Taking a holistic approach means services should work in a way that acknowledges a person’s relationships and connection to the community are critical.

To explore the concept of partnerships, speakers in the second session of the day outlined three critical new ideas that will require organisations to work together – stepped care, health care homes, and strategic commissioning to meet local need. All these models take a local approach, and are only made possible through collaboration.

The final session focused on implementation; participants worked with others in their region to brainstorm how new or expanded partnerships could improve services in the area, and talked about opportunities to build these partnerships and possible barriers to overcome.

Moving forward, participants were encouraged to use the contacts gained at the forum to develop strategic partnerships, working together to ensure consumers and their families are at the centre of the mental health service system.