Mental health services run locally from 2016

RURAL and regional mental health services will be run locally from next year as part of a wide overhaul of the federal primary mental healthcare system.

Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the change on Thursday as part of the government's long-awaited response to the National Mental Health Commission's review of the system.

Existing mental health care funding of about $350million a year is to be poured into 30 recently created primary health networks to be advised by local community advisory groups in each region.

In a key change to the system, Canberra's decision making will be devolved to those networks by July next year, with funding spread through the networks to where services are most needed.

The networks will decide how the money is spent, contracting out services to psychologists and other groups.

While the reforms came with no extra money, review head Professor Alan Fels said he was pleased with the changes and hoped the government would "progressively increase the amount given to mental health".

Ms Ley said patients would still be able to access the current free 10 visits a year for psychological help, but it would depend on their personal situation.

The changes could mean some local services lose their funding if networks decide to contract another organisation.


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