Media release: Mental health service planning for Aboriginal people in New South Wales

In a report released today, the Auditor-General for New South Wales, Margaret Crawford found that NSW Health is not forming effective partnerships with Aboriginal communities to plan, design and deliver appropriate mental health services. There is limited evidence that NSW Health is using the knowledge and expertise of Aboriginal communities to guide how mental health care is structured and delivered.

NSW Health’s mental health services are predominantly focused on emergency department care for people in crisis and inpatient hospital care for acute cases. Community based services for Aboriginal people with mental illness are lacking across New South Wales. Increasing numbers of Aboriginal people are presenting at hospital emergency departments with acute mental illness.

In prison environments, NSW Health does not have effective systems for sharing mental health information with other prisons across the network, or for supporting patients as they transition to the community on release. Patients released from large prisons on short notice; usually directly from court, are unlikely to receive a mental health referral, discharge summaries or a seven day supply of medications.

NSW Health does not have a policy framework to guide mental health care for Aboriginal people. The most recent policy expired over nine years ago. A current policy would better support the NSW Health workforce to coordinate mental health care with other service providers and to support Aboriginal people as they move through a complex service sector. 

The report recommends that NSW Health develop a policy framework for Aboriginal mental health and wellbeing along with culturally appropriate models of care.

Further information

Please contact Barry Underwood, Director of the Office of the Auditor-General by email or on 9275 7101 or 0403 073 664