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Building relationships

Networks are being establsihed to support the development of interdisciplinary collaboration of mental health providers in the primary care sector.

In Australia, around one in five people will experience a mental illness at some stage of their life. While many of these people suffer from depression, anxiety and low acuity disorders, in extreme cases mental illness can have a debilitating affect on all areas of a person’s life.

With an increased prevalence of mental health issues in the community, the Australian government Department of Health and Ageing has funded the Mental Health Professionals Network (MHPN) to support the development of interdisciplinary collaboration of mental health providers in the primary care sector.

The aim is to promote the quality of patient care by fostering local networks of medical and allied mental health professionals across Australia. The MHPN, of which the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses is a key member organisation, also brings together the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Australian Psychological Society.

MHPN is rolling out 1200 interdisciplinary workshops across Australia (metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas) between January 2009 and June 2010. The workshops present an opportunity to network informally with other health professionals operating in the local area.

During the meeting, a case study forms the basis of a discussion on how each profession can contribute to a patient’s treatment, and the appropriate referral pathways. The workshop is rounded off with a facilitated discussion around establishing a local network to support ongoing collaborative care.

Mental health care professionals working in private practice – in particular, mental health nurses, GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers and paediatricians – are encouraged to attend their local workshop.

Mental health nurses working in private practice and primary mental health care receive funding to attend, and the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses endorses the workshops and network meetings for continuing professional development accreditation.

The workshops specifically aim to strengthen existing, and establish new relationships with other mental health practitioners. It is hoped that referral pathways will become clearer, and a broader range of professional disciplines will be engaged in the treatment plan, says Bronwyn Morris-Donovan, MHPN national project manager.

“These are the first workshops to involve local, interdisciplinary groups in the field of mental health with a focus on improving collaborative care”, Morris-Donovan says.

“The workshops are designed to improve the understanding of the resources available in the local area so that each are better utilised in the treatment of patients, which in turn translates to the best possible patient care.”

The MHPN workshops offer the opportunity for nurses practising in mental health to meet with medical and allied health professionals to reinforce their value and contribution to the primary mental health team, Morris-Donovan says.

“With their experience in collaborative care arrangements with a range of other health professionals, nurses can offer support and insight for other private practice professionals who often work in silos.”

Go to www.mhpn.org.au or call 1800 209 031.

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