19 February 2019


North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) is now working to improve mental health and wellbeing for older adults by commissioning a stepped care approach to mental health in Residential Aged Care Facilities.

The first stage began in January 2019 and involves providing services to a small number of residential aged care facilities (RACFs) across the NWMPHN region. This pilot is being delivered by a number of NWMPHN’s existing contracted CAREinMIND mental health clinicians, each skilled in delivering services to older adults within facilities.

The second stage involves extensive consultation and codesign between NWMPHN and stakeholders in the older adults’ sector. NWMPHN will then be issuing an expression of interest for new service providers to develop a model of care.

NWMPHN CEO Adjunct Associate Professor Christopher Carter said approximately 39 per cent of all permanent aged care residents live with mild to moderate depression, showing a clear need for more accessible and responsive mental health services in RACFs.

“Mental health services are not routinely available to older people living in aged care facilities and are not generally provided by existing staff within facilities,” A/Prof Carter said.

“Evidence suggests that at least half of the people living in RACFs with mild to moderate depression may want to receive mental health services if they were available to them.”

Older adults living in RACFs will be referred to this new service via their GP or a nurse within the RACF. The provision of services will occur on site at the facility.

The providers will target residents with a diagnosed mild to moderate mental illness or those who are assessed as at risk of mental illness if they do not receive services.

The service will be implemented collaboratively in partnership with the RACFs, other key stakeholders, the residents and their family members.

The Australian Government has recently extended the scope of Primary Health Networks to include older adults. This project is one of our first steps to commission services specifically targeting mental health in older adults, who are a key and growing priority group in our region.

There are an estimated 188,000 older adults living within the NWMPHN catchment, with the number expected to grow by 55 per cent over the next 12 years.

An expression of interest for phase two of the project for will go live in the coming months, inviting new service providers to respond and develop a model of care that meets the mental health needs of older adults in RACFs. Updates will be provided on our News page once details are finalised.

For more information about our stepped care approach to mental health, visit our website.

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