Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Roles and Competencies of the Support Facilitator in Australia's Recovery-Oriented Mental Health Initiative: A Qualitative Study from Gippsland, Victoria

Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Roles and Competencies of the Support Facilitator in Australia's Recovery-Oriented Mental Health Initiative: A Qualitative Study from Gippsland, Victoria

Article excerpt


People with severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI) are defined as having severe symptoms or 'difficulty in social, occupational or school functioning' that has lasted for at least 2 years.1 Owing to significant functional impairment and psychosocial disability, these individuals often become disconnected from social or family support networks.2 Furthermore, they often have multiple and complex needs such as those related to accommodation,3 help seeking,4 employment, life skills and medication management.5 Recovery in these individuals tends to become challenging if these multiple needs stay unmet.

Mental health services in Australia have not been known to be recovery oriented. Services have been fragmented with little or no coordination between them.6 However, in 2014, the Australian government implemented the Partners in Recovery (PIR) initiative, a recovery-oriented mental health project that aimed to support a better integrated mental healthcare system.7 The main goal of the PIR initiative is to address the multiple and complex needs of individuals with SPMI by coordinating the various services that provide care to them.7 At the heart of this initiative is the position ofa Support Facilitator (SF) who is responsible for coordinating this care.7

The role of the SF is to enable individually tailored wraparound care to be provided to eligible clients by undertaking eligibility and needs assessments, facilitating the development of a client-centred collaborative action plan to meet individual needs and recovery goals, coordinating and facilitating a care team approach to meeting individual needs, being a point of contact for the client and their significant others, and providing administrative support to the care team.8

The initiative was implemented in 48 regions around the nation to cover a population of 20 000 individuals with SPMI.7 One of the rural regions chosen for the implementation of this initiative was Gippsland in Victoria. The Gippsland region covers the south-eastern corner of Victoria. It spans over 41 000 km2 and has a population of over 270 000.9 Almost 40% of Gippsland's population lives in small towns of less than 500 residents.9 The median household income levels are below both state and national levels.10 Clinical mental health services are provided by the Latrobe Regional Hospital based at Traralgon in the central part ofGippsland and nonclinical mental health services are provided by three Mental Health Community Support Services, namely SNAP Gippsland Inc. in the east, Mind Australia in central Gippsland and Mental Illness Fellowship in the west and south.

The PIR initiative was spearheaded in Gippsland by the Medicare Local (now known as Gippsland Primary Health Network), which was an organisation, established to coordinate the delivery of locally relevant primary healthcare services, by improving access to care and supporting health professionals. Gippsland Medicare Local (GML) worked with the three Mental Health Community Support Services (henceforth referred to as support facilitator organisations; SFOs) to implement the initiative which commenced in March 2014. This study was part of an independent evaluation of the PIR initiative that we undertook in Gippsland from February to May 2015. Since the PIR initiative was new and SFs commenced a role that was hitherto unfamiliar to them, to their organisations and to other service providers, we explored the views and opinions of stakeholders on the role and competencies of the SF in the first recovery-oriented national initiative of its kind in Australia.


Study design

This was a qualitative study underpinned by Qualitative Description that aimed to present a rich, straight description of participants' views on the topic.11 Accordingly, we strived to stay close to the data by avoiding excessive interpretation.12 Qualitative Description presents rich information grounded in cultural and environmental contexts. …

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