Rural and Remote Mental Health and Suicide Prevention: An Update on Progress

Mr David Butt,  CEO of the National Mental Health Commission, will present an update on the progress in rural and remote mental health and suicide prevention in a Keynote presentation at the 7th Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium.  The Symposium will be held at the Novotel Forest Resort Creswick, Victoria 26 - 28 November 2015.

Keynote Presenter: David Butt

Mr David Butt  Mr David Butt

David Butt was appointed CEO of the National Mental Health Commission in January 2014.

David has 30 years of experience in the health system, much of it at CEO and Executive level.

Prior to his appointment to the Commission, David was Deputy Secretary of the Australian Department of Health from August 2011, head of Rural and Regional Health Australia, and the Commonwealth’s first Chief Allied Health Officer.

This followed 15 years as CEO of three major health system organisations: Chief Executive of Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Health and Community Care, National CEO of Little Company of Mary Health Care (the Calvary group – one of Australia’s largest not for profit hospitals and health services providers) and CEO of the Australian General Practice Network.

Prior to this David worked as an executive in a number of positions in Queensland Health, including as Executive Director of Policy and Planning and for a brief time as Regional Director of Peninsula and Torres Strait health region.

Keynote Presentation Overview

Abstract Aims
Location matters for the mental health of approximately thirty per cent of Australians who live outside our major cities. But there is no agreed national approach to mental health service delivery in regional, rural and remote areas and for ensuring a fair and equitable share of resources. People living outside of metropolitan areas experience persisting inequity both in terms of their health and in getting access to the right services. The impact of these inequities is particularly significant for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in these areas.

From the Commission’s National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services and the 2014 National Report Back on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention a picture of progress will be presented.

Central to proposed reform is a person-centred approach to mental health care, and the development of integrated care pathways to improve outcomes for people experiencing mental ill health and their families.

The Review found that in rural areas:

  • Mental health services are transient, face significant workforce shortages and are decreasing;
  • Programmes are given inadequate funding for the additional demands and costs of service delivery; and
  • Access to services could be improved by wider use of technology and increasing community capacity.

Although some improvements to the workforce situation, and Access to Additional Psychological Services (ATAPS) has directed resources towards high community need, the service deficit in rural and remote locations remains significant. The lack of psychiatrists and psychologists is particularly acute.

What does success look like for rural and regional communities? Review recommendations include planning and providing services based on a whole-of-person approach, service integration that is locally targeted and more equitable distribution of Commonwealth funding across Australia. The Government has set the newly established Primary Health Networks with six key priorities for targeted work, including mental health, with the aim of providing localised health care services. Services need to include those that are mental health-specific, delivered through health and non-health portfolios, e-mental health and other phone and online services, as well as broader services which contribute to physical health. Regional mental health and suicide prevention strategies need to be developed. The Review found high levels of unmet mental health need in rural and regional communities which requires immediate attention.

To register for the 7th Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium please click here.


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