A positive step forward for mental health services in the region

COORDINARE – South Eastern NSW PHN, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) and Southern NSW Local Health District (SNSWLHD) have developed a consultation draft Regional Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan which is set to bring about positive change for local consumers, their families and carers. According to Dianne Kitcher, CEO of the South Eastern NSW PHN, the three organisations have a long history of collaborating together on shared priority areas such as immunisation and chronic disease management, however this plan is intended to provide a blueprint for collaborative action for mental health service delivery over the next five years.

Above: Dianne Kitcher, CEO of the South Eastern NSW PHN

“The draft plan has been prepared jointly by a working group comprising senior mental health, planning officials and people with lived experience of mental illness from across the region,” said Ms Kitcher. “It focuses on the ways in which our organisations can work together with consumers, carers and other stakeholders to reduce fragmentation, address shared priorities and establish joined up systems and pathways,” she added. The population of South Eastern NSW experiences high levels of psychological distress and has recorded a relatively high number of suicides compared to other NSW regions. “More than 102,000 people in our region may experience a mental illness in any one year, and there is an inequitable distribution of services across the region – service availability does not match population needs, particularly in rural areas,” said Ms Kitcher. “The region also experiences relatively high rates of suicide – amongst the highest in NSW,” she added. Julie Carter, Director of Mental Health at the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District said the draft plan has been informed by the results of recent consultation undertaken by all three organisations on other mental health initiatives, and notes the gaps from the perspective and experience of consumers and carers. “Challenges have been identified around fragmentation, lack of communication between services and the lack of timely and appropriate pathways to care across the spectrum of need and across the lifespan,” she said. “It also notes that we need to focus more on the physical health needs of people with mental illness, and identifies the difficulties some people face with accessing the right service,” said Ms Carter. The regional plan identifies nine priority areas against which key actions are identified that involve working together across the health system, and with consumers and other stakeholders to provide better integrated care for people with mental illness. “Consultation on the draft plan is very important and we will be providing an opportunity for stakeholders including local consumers and carers to have their say,” said Cherie Puckett, Director of Mental Health Drug and Alcohol for Southern NSW Local Health District. “Any feedback we receive will be used to help to refine priorities and actions, and to inform the approach to implementation which will include a focus on developing the vital partnerships with the community needs to achieve a more integrated and responsive mental health system to meet the needs of our region,” she said.

To download a copy of the consultation draft of the South Eastern NSW Regional MentalHealth and Suicide Prevention Plan go to: or submit feedbackat

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