Neami remains committed to the provision of recovery-oriented services for people with severe and complex mental health issues. Alongside this, the last year has seen exciting opportunities for us to diversify our repertoire of services and broaden our workforce proﬁle.
Influenced by internal and external factors, these changes see us building a presence in early intervention and prevention services as well as further addressing the needs of people with mild and moderate mental health issues.
For a long time, many Neami services were only available to consumers who experienced the effects of long term psychosocial disability or mental illness, and were deemed eligible for a service in accordance with our funding conditions. However, over the years, consumers have indicated that support from Neami earlier in their recovery journey could have assisted in reducing the likelihood of developing a significant disability and experiencing considerable disadvantage.
Neami has wanted to diversify into early intervention, prevention and clinical supports for a number of years. The external environment bodes well for this endeavour, as the Federal Government through the Primary Health Networks (PHNs) has been funding such interventions under the stepped care model.
Neami has been fortunate to have received funding from 15 of the 31 PHNs across Australia, for a multitude of highly innovative and locally relevant programs. Such programs include suicide prevention, intake assessment triage and referral services, and brief and very brief interventions and educational programs. These programs are operating across Australia, including in areas where we have not previously had a significant presence. We are optimistic that these new services will assist those with emerging, episodic and persistent mental health issues.
With the growth afforded by new services, we are ‘broadening our lane’ and providing services to a more diverse population. With this comes risks. New initiatives, from both PHNs and State sources, while very welcome and relevant, are being funded at very tight levels with contracts often being short-term. These conditions create instability and uncertainty, and have implications for continuity of care for consumers and workforce planning.
As a national provider of mental health services we are very eager to ensure we maintain high standards of care for consumers, demonstrate safe practices and strive for excellence in consumer outcomes. We are optimistic that PHNs pursuing co-designed services with consumers, carers and providers will play a vital role in the future of the Australian mental health landscape. We support them and their endeavours but are mindful they are still in the early development phase.
A significant focus over the past 12 months has been participating in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), through our wholly owned subsidiary, Me Well. The design of the NDIS, especially the typical support packages, creates challenges for the provision of supports. The NDIS support structure, which assumes permanence of the disability and required supports, is difficult to reconcile with our vision and mission. Many of the people we support demonstrate significant improvements in their lives to the point where they can successfully exit our services. The successful exit occurs because the existing support programs, such as Personal Helpers and Mentors, Partners in Recovery and State funded services, quickly build a consumer’s capacity, to the point where approximately 70% of consumers can exit the service within a three year period or less.
The NDIS was never designed to replicate or replace the State-funded, community managed mental health service system. We find the decision to cash out the Victorian Mental Health Community Support Services, as well as the programs mentioned above, deeply concerning for both consumers and the highly skilled workforce who are likely to be made redundant.
Through Me Well, we will continue to work within the NDIS space focusing on areas assisting consumers to build capacity. We continue to work with the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and mental health peak bodies to ensure improvements for people with a psychosocial disability can be realised. We are optimistic that the NDIS, being one of the most important social reforms in Australia’s history, will have a positive effect on people with psychosocial disabilities. We are also pleased to note that the NDIA appear very keen to listen to consumers’ concerns and make adjustments to their services as deemed appropriate. We hope that these changes take effect in a manner that means people are not left without supports as the transition arrangements take effect.
This year Neami took a strong public stand to promote a ‘Yes’ vote for same sex marriage. As a rights and values-based organisation, which recognises the detrimental effects of discrimination and the significant benefits of a diverse community, we were very proud of the positive result of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey. We were also keen to clearly inform our staff and consumers of our support for this important reform. Another planned, purposeful undertaking demonstrating our commitment to social inclusion, is our first Reconciliation Action Plan. This is animportant piece of work and again reﬂects our commitment to support a national reconciliation movement.
We have great pride in our Great Consumer Experience Project which takes a holistic perspective of consumer experience. We are exploring with consumers, carers, staff and key stakeholders what a great consumer experience looks like and what role each person plays in achieving that experience. The outcomes of the project will result in an improvement of our organisational systems, processes and structures to best support staff to achieve a great experience for every consumer, every time.
Many positive developments are occurring in Neami amidst a time of unprecedented political and policy change for mental health systems across Australia. We are confident that our strong focus on our vision, mission and values and our strong governance processes will play a key role in keeping us stable and achieving better outcomes for consumers and their carers.
We would like to take this opportunity to say farewell to Stephen Brand who retired as a Director of the Neami Board in October 2017. Stephen’s work since 2006 as a Director and his leadership as Chair of the Board from 2011 until 2016 demonstrated his commitment to improving the lives of people with a mental illness. We also say goodbye to Director Douglas Holmes who was first elected to the Board in 2007. Doug was crucial to Neami’s success especially in the early days in NSW. Doug has a great ability to advocate for the consumer experience and remind us all of why we are doing what we are doing.
Finally we would like to thank our funders, key partners, stakeholders, staff and most importantly the consumers and carers who demonstrate incredible resilience and courage to embark on their journey of recovery. We look forward to the next year.