31 October 2019

An estimated three million Australians live with and experience mild to moderate mental health needs over their lifespan.

It is predicted that by the year 2021, 260,000 community members in the North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) catchment will be categorised as having mild to moderate mental health needs, putting them at risk of developing more complex mental health conditions in the future.

Peer Support Workers draw on their own lived experience of mental health conditions to support other consumers in their recovery. Peer support is not based on psychiatric models and diagnostic criteria, it is about understanding another’s situation empathically and through shared experience, supporting hope and aiding recovery. However, peer workers do receive professional development, training, supervision and support.

For someone experiencing mild to moderate health conditions, receiving appropriate offers of support at the right time can be hugely beneficial and might avoid the need for more intensive support and care.

NWMPHN is committing $660,000 to support up to three proposals to develop programs to enable peer workers to deliver low intensity mental health services. These activities will be part of our region-wide stepped care approach to mental health support and provide earlier access to care for people with, or at risk of, mild mental illness.

NWMPHN recognises that people from specific population groups might benefit from peer services that address their cultural, language and service connection needs.

These populations could include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, CALD communities, refugees and asylum seekers, people who experience homelessness, LGBTIQ communities, people with coexisting alcohol/drug and mental health concerns, young people and older people.

In recognising the diversity of the NWMPHN region, this funding is intended to provide the opportunity for innovative approaches to better meet the mental health needs of people in the region and enable the development and utilisation of a mental health peer workforce.

NWMPHN CEO Adjunct Associate Professor Chris Carter said that NWMPHN recognises the value of peer support and is eager to incorporate it further into our work.

“The value of a peer workforce in mental health is increasingly being recognised across Australia and even internationally,” A/Prof Carter said.

“There is an opportunity for mental health peer workers to be key practitioners across low intensity mental health interventions and NWMPHN is excited to be involved in commissioning this innovative piece of work.”

Expressions of interest are now open to deliver low intensity mental health services, utilising peer support workers. Organisations are encouraged to focus on priority populations that have evidence of specific needs. The closing date is 5pm 26 November 2019 and all submissions must be made through Tenderlink: tenderlink.com/mpcn

If you would like to attend the market briefing in November, register here.

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