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Making Health Better
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Connect to Wellbeing program to provide increased level of support

Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN) has partnered with Neami National, one of Australia’s largest community mental health providers, to launch a new, single point of access to psychological services across North Queensland.

The $5 million Connect to Wellbeing program, delivered by Neami National and funded by the Australian Government, will be rolled out across the region to achieve increased levels of mental health support for North Queenslanders.

Connect to Wellbeing has already established offices in each of the three major centres of Cairns, Townsville, and Mackay, with locally recruited service managers and clinicians in each site.

The program, which begins next month, will provide a ‘no wrong door’ approach to assist people seeking mental health support to connect with the right service at the right time.

In addition to face-to-face psychological therapies, services will also include digital, telephone, group, and self-help programs.

NQPHN Mental Health Director Gillian Yearsley said Connect to Wellbeing is an entry point into the model of ‘stepped care’ that has been established by the Australian Government across the country.

“The stepped care model provides a range of mental health programs, responding to individual need, and is available to people who may have difficulty accessing services,” Ms Yearsley said.

“Clients are matched to a service that most meets their current needs, ranging from mild mental health concerns to more complex mental health needs.

“There is also a focus on working in collaboration with the person’s significant others and members of the person’s care team to deliver the best possible care, aiming to reduce the stigma associated with people with mental health challenges.

“This is an exciting period of change and reform, with this approach helping to improve outcomes for people who are in need of mental health support.

“We look forward to collaborating with Neami to introduce this important component of the Australian Government’s mental health reforms.”

Ms Yearsley said that Connect to Wellbeing will provide an access point to the new Psychological Therapies service, which will replace the current Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) program.

“Psychological Therapies will take ATAPS one step further, enabling clinicians to provide a more thorough service for those people referred to a psychologist or mental health professional through the Connect to Wellbeing triage process,” she said.

“The cornerstone of stepped care is the connection of people to a range of appropriate services based on their level of assessed need.

“For example, a person who may have previously only been referred to a mental health professional, may also now be offered additional referrals, such as relationship counselling and links to community services, all based upon their individual need.

“In summary, mental health in Australia now has a greater focus in local regions on ensuring that client services better meet client needs.”

Ms Yearsley added that acute mental health services will continue to be provided by Queensland Health.

Neami National Queensland State Manager Karen Thomas said Neami was thrilled to be working together with NQPHN, local service providers, and primary health teams to support people in North Queensland to make positive changes to their mental health and wellbeing.

“We’re passionate about supporting improved mental health outcomes in local communities, and believe that the stepped care model adopted by Connect to Wellbeing provides a solid foundation for supporting people across the spectrum of needs and across time as their needs change,” she said.

The Connect to Wellbeing team includes skilled clinical and community health staff, who will adopt a person-centered approach and use holistic assessment tools to understand an individual’s needs and goals before making an appropriate referral.

To ensure streamlined access to mental health services, Connect to Wellbeing will work closely with primary health teams and local service providers to understand the range of services available and capacity for referrals.

Ms Yearsley added that NQPHN will provide regular updates to the community about the Connect to Wellbeing program, and stepped care, as mental health services transition to the new model.