The Mental Health Professionals’ Network has developed through a number of phases to become a champion for interdisciplinary practice and collaborative care in mental health care.

Phase one: Environmental scan and pilot workshops

Our first phase began in 2008 with a small number of pilot workshops targeting the primary mental healthcare sector at the local level. These were commissioned in response to the Mental Health Professionals’ Association (MHPA) environmental scan.

The six pilot workshops were held in both metropolitan and rural regions involving over 80 participants from a range of mental health professions. Participants consistently rated the workshops as valuable. This led to a national rollout of workshops.

Phase two: National workshop rollout

Between February 2009 and June 2010 a total of 1,169 workshops were attended by more than 15,000 practitioners across Australia. The workshops brought together mental health practitioners within their local areas to discuss the skills, resources and services available to their community. The workshops aimed to identify new referral pathways and introduce a collaborative approach to treating consumers in a primary care setting.

While the workshops targeted practitioners who delivered services under Better Access, anyone involved in providing primary mental health care services was encouraged to participate.

Overall workshop participants valued the opportunity to network. The benefits included:

  • Better understanding of the respective mental health professions.
  • Improved access to local resources.
  • More up-to-date clinical knowledge.
  • The anticipated ability to make more efficient and appropriate referrals.

These were seen as likely to improve outcomes for consumers by fostering greater collegial support and improved interdisciplinary networking.

Phase three: From workshops to sustainable networks

Following the success of the workshop phase, participants were encouraged to form interdisciplinary networks. These local, voluntary groups aim to strengthen interdisciplinary collaboration by discussing local issues and improving referral pathways. Our role in this current phase is to:

  • provide guidance
  • administrative support
  • access to funding.

This allows networks to develop, grow and become self-determining.

In phase three we also trialed our professional development program of national online webinars. It was so successful that is has become the second pillar in the MHPN national campaign alongside local networks; both championing interdisciplinary practice and collaborative care. The webinars continue to draw large audiences.

Phase four: Practitioner networks and the online professional development webinar program

MHPN entered phase four on the 1st July 2017 for three years and will: 

  • Continue to support and develop MHPN’s two core programs. The networking program supports over 350 networks across the country, where mental health practitioners voluntarily meet up to four times a year. The Online Professional Development program reaches out to practitioners in communities across Australia. Ensuring ongoing growth and long-term sustainability of these programs provides an effective and unique national platform that is responsive to mental health reform as it evolves.
  • Establish productive working relationships with PHNs. 
  • Strengthen responses in mental health reform priority areas,  with a focus on the following:
    • integrating mental and physical health care (in partnership with PHNs)
    • improving care for older Australians (in partnership with PHNs)
    • supporting collaboration between primary mental health practitioners and the community mental health sector
    • Indigenous mental health (in partnership with PHNs).

The future

We aim to continue to promote interdisciplinary practice and collaborative care in new and innovative ways into the future.