Mental Health: Exploring Collaborative Community Reform in South Australia
This project is a collaboration between the Mental Health Coalition, Flinders University and the Don Dunstan Foundation. The research focuses on mental health reform priorities and the benefits of high quality housing to support the recovery journey.
People with mental illness are one of the most disadvantaged groups in our society. The community sector offers a range of support services which are fundamental to the wellbeing of people in this group.
The services are positioned in a manner that allows direct contact with clients and, for some, offer a more attractive alternative or adjunct to the traditional health focussed assistance from government services. Since 2007 the majority of reforms in mental health services, in this state, have been through the South Australian Government’s implementation of the recommendations in the Social Inclusion Board’s report “Stepping Up: A Social Inclusion Action Plan for Mental Health Reform 2007-2012”. The report called for community mental health to be at the “centre of the system” and for increased funding. It was believed that this approach offered greater responsiveness and choice for consumers. This approach has recently been reinforced by the National Mental Health Commission in their “Report on the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services” with a call for diversion of some acute hospital care funding to the community mental health and community sector with a view to reducing the occurrence of acute presentations to emergency departments and increasing the resilience and well- being of people living with mental illness in the community.
Mental illness is one of the most significant risk factors for homelessness (Mares and Rosenheck 2010). Single adults with a major mental illness have a 25 – 50% risk of homelessness in their lifetime, 20 times higher than the general population (Bauer et al 2013). Contributing factors for homelessness for people with mental illness include co-existing substance misuse, history of incarceration, exposure to personal violence, landlord discrimination, impaired judgement, dysfunctional organisational skills and or a history of sexual or physical assault (Folsom et al 2005; Goodman, Saxe & Harvey 1991). This highlights the need for an integrated, cross-sectoral approach to both mental health reform and housing initiatives for people living with mental illness. For that reason, combining mental health reform and associated housing in this research project will yield rich and useable information and recommendations for a positive way forward.