Intellectual Disability and Mental Health Reform

Page last updated: 17 October 2016

The Australian Government acknowledges the importance of people with an intellectual disability and a mental illness having access to appropriate mental health services. It is recognised that people with intellectual disability are more likely to have mental disorders than the general population and often experience difficulties in accessing appropriate mental health services.

On 26 November 2015, the Australian Government announced its response to the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services. The Australian Government’s reforms will create better, more coordinated support to people with severe mental illness and complex needs who are being managed within primary care. Details of the reform package are available on the Department of Health’s website.

Primary Health Networks (PHNs), established on 1 July 2015, will play a key role in leading a regional approach to plan, integrate and commission mental health services at a local level, in partnership with relevant services and with a new flexible primary mental health care funding pool. As part of the comprehensive needs assessments on the mental health service gaps and needs of people living in their local region, it is expected that PHNs would identify and address the needs of people with intellectual disability and mental illness.

With the increased prevalence of mental illness among people with an intellectual disability, this is a specific ‘at risk’ group considered as part of the Australian Government child and youth mental health initiatives: KidsMatter Early Childhood, KidsMatter Primary, MindMatters (for secondary schools) and the ResponseAbility pre-service teacher education initiative. These initiatives each seek to improve outcomes for children and young people with, or at risk, of mental illness through promotion, prevention and early intervention. A new Government child mental health workforce initiative will commence in 2016-17, for which a tender process will be undertaken in the second half of 2016.

The Government has contributed funding towards three projects related to intellectual disability:

  • the National Roundtable on the Mental Health of People with an Intellectual Disability, which was held on 22 May 2013;
  • the National Health and Medical Research Council funding for the University of New South Wales Partnership for Better Health Project: Improving the Mental Health Outcomes of People with Intellectual Disability which is due for completion in 2018;
  • funding for development of the publication Accessible mental health services for people with intellectual disability: a guide for providers, launched in May 2014, which offers a framework for mental health professionals to improve the accessibility and quality of mental health care for people with intellectual disability.

Reviewed: 12 December 2016