Media release: Melbourne to take lead role in mental health innovation

13 July, 2016

Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network (EMPHN) has been selected to develop innovative new models of support for Australians living with low severity mental health issues. They will pioneer the roll-out of the Federal Government’s ‘stepped model of care’ along with eight other PHNs around the country.

Stepped care creates a highly integrated continuum of support that responds well to those experiencing mild and moderate mental health issues right through to severe and enduring mental illness. It is based on the idea of each individual getting ‘the right support in the right place at the right time’ and this driving their long-term recovery and wellbeing. The Federal Government is providing $1.5 million over three years for the design and trial of stepped care models in EMPHN’s service area.

EMPHN CEO, Robin Whyte, welcomed the announcement and recognised Victoria’s leadership in the area of mental health. ‘Victoria has one of the best mental health support systems in Australia and we look forward to working with both federal and state governments to create a truly integrated approach to mental health support for around 1.5 million people living in Melbourne’s eastern and north eastern suburbs. There are a range of models in Australia and overseas that have shown that this approach can deliver improved community health and wellbeing.

‘We plan to work closely with a wide range of health partners, local GPs, researchers and community members to design and commission services that address the key recommendations of the 2015 Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services from the National Mental Health Commission. This is a rare opportunity to support people earlier on and more effectively in order to prevent their physical and mental health deteriorating to the point where they need intensive support and/or hospitalisation.

‘The benefits to individuals will be better health and reductions in psychological distress, trauma and social disconnection. The benefits to our community will be greater social and economic participation as well as reduced demand for acute psychiatric hospital beds. The challenge we’ve been given is to take the best evidence from around the world and show just how powerful prevention and early intervention can be if done well.’

More details will be released in the near future and local health organisations and members of the community will be invited to participate in the commissioning process in the second half of 2016.

Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network (EMPHN) is one of 31 PHNs established by the Federal Government to facilitate improvement and integration initiatives within the primary health care system. EMPHN covers a population of around 1.5 million people and an area of nearly 4,000 km2 across Melbourne’s eastern and north eastern suburbs. Visit for more information.