Brooke was waiting at her general practice for an appointment when the receptionist offered her an iPad to complete a quick survey. This survey was part of a new trial that North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) has been implementing in partnership with the University in Melbourne over the course of this year.
The trial, Link-me, tests a new approach to delivering care for patients with complex mental health needs in general practice. This is done by offering eligible patients the opportunity to access tailored support through a mental health care navigator based in general practices throughout the NWMPHN catchment.
“It is really a great program and I think it’s worth people’s time. I was just sitting waiting for my GP anyway, and the few minutes it took me to do those surveys and end up a part of this process was well worth my time,” Brooke said.
Patients’ eligibility for Link-me is determined through their completion of a Decision Support Tool survey on an iPad in a general practice waiting room. This tool judges the severity of the patient’s mental health needs and randomly allocates the patient to an intervention or usual care group. Patients who are allocated to the intervention group and have complex mental health needs have the option of accessing a mental health care navigator, or support worker, that is available at the general practice for the duration of the Link me-trial.
Patients are offered up to eight sessions with the care navigator and the initial sessions are used to develop a mental health care plan in partnership with the patient and their GP. The navigator then supports the patient to identify services that are in line with the goals of the mental health care plan.
“My support worker was great. She acted as a health advocate for me and helped me think through things that were affecting me and different ways to combat them. She came in to one of my appointments with my GP to make plans to tackle things that needed to be addressed,” Brooke said. “She was just a great bridge between me and where I needed to be.”
So far, over 100 patients have been eligible for support. Care package funds are also available through NWMPHN for patients experiencing financial barriers to accessing the services they need.
“The trial has really been indispensable for me. It helped me to really think about different aspects of my health, both physical and mental, and helped me head to where I need to be with my health. Just sitting down and completing those surveys helped me contemplate things that I needed to address. I think a lot of people would get a lot of value out of something like that,” Brooke explained. “It was excellent, to be honest. I couldn’t put it any other way, it was excellent.”