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Our model of mental health care

Mental ill health can affect anyone at any time in their life.

Community Mental Health Workers Hassenet Younis (left) and Tim Howell provide psychosocial support to the Footscray community.

The type, intensity and duration of symptoms of mental health conditions varies widely, from self-managed anxiety or depression, to complex schizophrenia or bipolar disorders. Symptoms do not always follow a regular pattern: mental health episodes can be ‘one-offs’ or recur over many years.

Mental health conditions are prevalent across the North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) region. Our Health Needs Assessment 2022–25 shows there are high levels of psychological distress among adults living in the region, particularly in the local government areas of Brimbank, Hume and Melton. Poor mental health can lead to lost income and productivity, and increase the risk of homelessness and disadvantage.

How we support mental health

Since 2016, the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care has funded primary health networks (PHNs) to implement primary mental health care reform. The department provides funding, sets expectations, gives guidance on core health issues and highlights best-practice examples. Visit for more information.

In response to these and other directives, such as those made by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, NWMPHN plans and commissions mental health services that best suit the needs of the community in its 3,200 square-kilometre catchment. Our commissioning model puts people at the centre of service design. It also draws on insights from consumer-led initiatives including our CroakeyGO and Blueprint for Better Health.

We work with consumers, carers, GPs, psychologists, nurses, allied health providers and primary mental health services to develop and improve a staged model of mental health care. We also work with acute and specialist services to improve referral pathways to and from primary care.

The model reflects local needs and focuses on safe, effective, quality mental health care service delivery. It is an evidence-based, staged system comprising a hierarchy of interventions, from the least to the most intensive, which can be matched to each person’s individual needs.

Referral and access

Our mental health referral and access team comprises experienced mental health nurses, psychologists and social workers. The team reviews every referral and allocate it to the most clinically appropriate service – no matter who funds or provides it.

Our referral form and more information are available here. GPs and other referrers can phone the team directly on (03) 9088 4277.

The team also oversees the Head to Health mental health intake service for Victoria. Community members can contact Head to Health on 1800 595 212 to find the best available mental health support for themselves, their family or friends. A guide to services in our region is also available at

HealthPathways Melbourne

GPs and other health professionals are encouraged to use HealthPathways Melbourne for up-to-date clinical and referral information for people experiencing mental ill health. HealthPathways is designed by and for clinicians to be used at the point of care. It includes a comprehensive suite of mental health pathways, which are updated regularly by our team of clinical editors.

Our mental health services

We have shown a longstanding commitment to mental health through the delivery of CAREinMIND™ wellbeing support, targeted psychological support, intensive support, and suicide prevention and support services.

Our Head to Health hubs and phone support service were rapidly established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. As of 2023, they helped more than 10,000 people in the NWMPHN region access the best possible mental health support.

Our psychosocial support services help people with severe mental illness to participate in their community, manage daily tasks, undertake work or study, find housing, get involved in activities, and make connections with family and friends. We also provide psychosocial support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with complex chronic health conditions through our Integrated Team Care program.

Our commissioned headspace youth mental health centres provide people aged 12 to 25 with a range of integrated mental health, alcohol and other drugs, physical and sexual health and vocational supports.

We commission several organisations to deliver alcohol and other drug support for people with coexisting mental health concerns.

Search our System of Care to find an appropriate, local mental health service.