Along with many other sectors – including disability, health and housing – the funding of mental health services is undergoing significant reform from a block funded model to ‘client directed’ or ‘individualised’ funding. This shift promises to give individual clients greater choice and control in accessing services and managing their own lives. Transitioning to this consumer-focused model requires a huge change in the way organisations deliver services and engage with clients.
In the northern suburbs of Melbourne, a consortium of three community mental health organisations – Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria, cohealth and Merri Community Health Services – recently completed the Choices: Building a Good Life Pilot Project (Choices Project). This eight month pilot supported close to 50 clients to access personalised packages of up to $9,000. While it was a small sample size with a limited timeframe, key lessons were learnt about how best to support clients in preparation for changes to Victorian mental health funding and the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). As Laura Collister, the Director of Mental Health Services, Research & Development at Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria said, “the reforms present huge operational challenges for organisations”.