Policy & Projects

Mental Health Guides For PHNs

In July 2016, the Department of Health released eight guides for PHNs to assist them to implement primary mental health care activities and manage their flexible funding.

With the move of specialist community mental health support services to the NDIS, there had been some expectation that PHNs would fill the gap in rehabilitation supports in Victoria.  However, these new guides have indicated that the Australian Government wants PHNs to focus on clinical partnerships only.  
The 'Stepped Care' guide outlines this approach:

PHNs cannot commission psychosocial support services from the flexible primary mental health funding pool; however PHNs have a role in promoting links and easy to navigate referral pathways between clinical services and broader support services for people with severe mental illness." (P.6)

The 'Severe Mental Illness' guide states that although psychosocial support services may not be directly commissioned, PHNs should promote links between them and clinical services:

"[PHNs should] explore the non-clinical services available in the region, including the NDIS but also other mainstream services to support people with severe mental illness. While PHNs cannot commission psychosocial support services from the flexible primary mental health funding pool, they should promote links and pathways between clinical services and broader support services." (P.7)

These guides contradict the recommendations of the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services 2015, which advocated for re-balancing expenditure away from clinical services and towards early intervention and recovery-based community support. At this stage it seems that PHNs will not be mechanism for mental health rehabilitation support for Victorians, leaving the future of these supports still unknown.


VICSERV has been funded by the Department of Health and Human Services to provide information and build capacity of community mental health services during the implementation phase of the NDIS in Victoria.


engagement work

The VICSERV NDIS Engagement team oversees several projects centred around capacity-building, sector representation and information provision.


Learn & Build - Barwon Under Full Scheme: A year on from VICSERV’s Learn and Build in Barwon paper, VICSERV is now investigating how time, experience and the removal of in-kind funding has impacted the Barwon mental health community.

This new small-scale research project, Barwon Now, will investigate:

-       Current improvements and issues experienced by NDIS mental health service providers, consumers and carers in Barwon

-       How the mental health workforce has been impacted in Barwon

-       What alternative service pathways are being taken by people who have fallen through the gap, i.e. people with mental illness who have not accessed the Scheme.

NDIS Stakeholder Meetings by region:  VICSERV meets regularly with member CEOs of services by roll-out region to discuss current issues, trends and updates concerning mental health consumers as NDIS progresses.

Workforce development project:  VICSERV is performing a thorough analysis to identify the training and development needs of community mental health organisations during the implementation of the NDIS.

Liaison and representation

DHHS Working Groups:  VICSERV represents community mental health interests on several government NDIS working groups, including Transition Support Package (TSP) sub-groups and regional coordinating groups. 

Implementation Taskforce:  

National representation:  Liaison with other mental health peak bodies through the national body, Community Mental Health Australia (CMHA).

NDIA liaison:  regular engagement with regional transition representatives from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

Information provision

VICSERV NDIS Forum:  VICSERV is hosting an NDIS Forum in November 2016 to probe the impact of the NDIS on the mental health community sector so far, and explore the current key opportunities and risks up ahead.

NDIS Bulletin:  The NDIS Engagement team release a fortnightly NDIS Bulletin, which supports the engagement of the community mental health sector with issues and developments around the NDIS.


For more information

Sign up:     Subscribe to the VICSERV NDIS Bulletin   

Contact:     Larissa Taylor on l.taylor@vicserv.org.au, or (03) 9519 7000

Read:         Further resources and useful links about the scheme can be found here.

PHN Mental Health Hubs

In its mental health policy to Strengthen Mental Health in Australia, released just prior to the 2016 federal election, the Coalition announced 10 PHNs would be mental health lead sites to 'initially be champions of mental health reform over the next two years'.

The policy indicates that from July 2016, these 10 sites will lead the implementation of stepped care models.

The key work of the lead sites in the primary care setting will be to:

  • establish regional service pathways in collaboration with Local Hospital Networks, Non-Government Organisations, the National Disability Insurance Agency, and other related services within the 'stepped care' approach
  • demonstrate models of stepped care, including: coordinated clinical care for people with severe mental illness who are managed in primary care; models of early intervention low intensity mental health services, such as coaching services; and regional approaches to suicide prevention
  • explore the use of digital technology in self-care, promoting good physical health, the delivery of effective stepped-care models, and preventing re-hospitalisation for those with more persistent disorders.

The ten PHN lead sites will focus on:

  • regional integration and models of stepped care more broadly (including low intensity) demonstrating best practice in ensuring a range of primary mental health services are available to better match with individual and local population need. These sites will be in Murrumbidgee, Sydney and Melbourne.
  • models of care for young people with severe mental illness including innovative ways to target a broader range of youth with, or at risk of, severe mental illness. These sites will be in Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and South Eastern Melbourne.
  • models of coordinated care for adults with severe mental illness and complex care needs; and regional approaches to suicide prevention. These sites will be in Brisbane North, the North Coast and North Western Melbourne.
  • regional suicide prevention, including integration of suicide prevention and youth mental health activity. This site will be in Perth South.

Ageing, Disability & Mental Health Collaborative Panel

Following a review of its discretionary grant making strategy, State Trustees Australia Foundation (STAF) is introducing a new collaborative panel and grants program to help individuals, service providers and peak organisations as they adjust to major ageing, disability and mental health reforms over the next five years.

The Ageing, Disability and Mental Health Collaborative Panel will facilitate cross-sector cooperation and to help strategically guide STAF's larger grants with an extra $2 million available over the next five years to help programs gain momentum in supporting vulnerable Victorians.

The panel will identify priority funding areas for the strategic grants and will actively encourage organisations to share their experiences and collaborate on common challenges and opportunities.

Panel representatives include Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO), Carers Victoria, COTA Victoria, Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria, National Disability Services, State Trustees Australia Foundation, Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) and VICSERV.

The review was triggered by STAF's 20th year celebration, and its recent growth in funds under management.

The $10 million bequest made by Mr John Shanahan has seen STAF's discretionary funds available for distribution more than double STAF's new focus aims to enable a range of organisations and individuals to adapt to the new market ‐ based, consumer ‐ led service system in a positive way, and avoid people falling through the gaps during the reform's transitional period.

More information about STAF, the panel and the review is available here.

Video: Community Organisations in a Climate of Change
29 September 2015
Over 100 people joined the Ageing, Disability and Mental Health (ADMH) Collaborative Panel at a special forum to explore the opportunities and challenges of the transformational change with the move to consumer directed care through the rollout of reforms such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and aged care.

  • Videos of the event have been made available here.
  • Access a PDF presentation by Kim Koop regarding the Collaborative Panel projects here.
  • Department of Health and Human Services HACC Factsheets are available for clients  and for providers

Community Organisations in a Climate of Change briefing papers
These briefing papers, prepared by members of the Ageing, Disability and Mental Health Collaborative Panel, outline the climate of change community organisations are operating in, and explain a range of parameters and models and the opportunities and implications they present to organisations. The Community Organisations in a Climate of Change briefing papers are available here.


Victoria's Mental Health Taskforce

An expert taskforce has been appointed to guide the implementation of Victoria's 10-year Mental Health Plan.

The taskforce brings together significant depth of experience and expertise and reflects the Victorian Governments ongoing commitment to work with the mental health sector, and people affected by mental illness to achieve bette outcomes for all Victorians.

The taskforce will be chaired by Steve Dimopoulos, Member for Oakleigh. Members of the taskforce are:

  • Brenda Appleton, Co-Chair of the LGBTI Taskforce and President Transgender Victoria
  • Dr Ravi Bhat, Director Goulbourn Valley Area Mental Health Service
  • Julie Dempsey, Senior Consumer Consultant Forensicare and Chair Women’s Mental Health Network Victoria
  • Dr Paul Denborough, Director Child and Youth Mental Health Service Alfred Health
  • Jill Gallagher, Chief Executive Officer Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation
  • Georgie Harman, Chief Executive Officer beyondblue
  • Kim Koop, Chief Executive Officer VICSERV
  • Professor Dan Lubman, Director Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, Professor of Addiction Studies and Services Monash University
  • Julien McDonald, Executive Director Tandem
  • Professor Patrick McGorry, Executive Director Orygen
  • Chris McNamara , Chief Executive Officer SNAP Gippsland
  • Lyn Morgain, Chief Executive cohealth
  • Professor Frank Oberklaid, Director Centre for Community Child Health at The Royal Children's Hospital, Honorary
  • Professor of Paediatrics University of Melbourne
  • Michelle Swann, Carer Advisor North Western Mental Health
  • Jason Trethowan, Chief Executive Officer Western Victoria Primary Health Network
  • Associate Professor Ruth Vine, Executive Director NorthWestern Mental Health


Four reference groups will provide advice directly to government and support the work of the Mental Health Expert Taskforce. The reference groups are:

  • Workforce (industrial and peak bodies, educators, managers, peer workforce representatives)
  • Lived experience leadership (consumers and carers)
  • Innovation (including academics, researchers, clinical leaders, consumer and carer academics)
  • Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing and mental health (Aboriginal consumers and carers, community controlled health and community service providers, other leaders from the Aboriginal community)
  • The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Health and Human Services working group, established under the LGBTI Taskforce, will provide advice to the Government on supporting the social and emotional wellbeing and mental health of LGBTI people


For more information click here.

Policy & Projects

On behalf of our members, VICSERV plays an important role contributing to and influencing the development and implementation of government policies relating to the work of community managed mental health services in Victoria. 

We represent and support our members by informing sector initiatives and developing and advocating policy positions through consultations and submissions. In developing our submissions, VICSERV is guided by its Policy Development Consultation Framework. The framework outlines the steps we take to respond to and influence key policy areas of the community mental health sector, including detail on the Policy Advisory Group we formed to assist us in formulating repsonses to key policy issues for the sector.

To see the policy submssions prepared by VICSERV.

VICSERV also undertakes a range of projects designed to build the capacity of members in service delivery, strategic planning and advocacy, and training. Projects are often informed by steering committees and consultation with members via surveys and other feedback mechanisms. Research undertaken as part of our projecrs contributes to the evidence base around the value of community managed mental health services.

To learn more about current projects being implemented by VICSERV, click here.

For more information about VICSERV's policy and porjects please contact our Policy and Communications Manager, Debra Parnell on (03) 9519 7000.


NDIS Roll-out Victoria

Implementation plans for the NDIS

Click here to access a video explaining plans for the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Victoria.

The Victorian Government has also released an NDIS Participant Phasing Plan Fact Sheet outlining roll-out plans for Victoria.  The state government have further NDIS information on their website here.

The NDIA has also created a quick reference guide entitled Five things you need to know about the NDIS in Victoria. Access the guide here.

Historic Agreement on NDIS Implementation

On 16 September Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews joined Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and NSW Premier Mike Baird for the signing of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) bilateral agreement committing to full roll-out of the Scheme across the two States. Further information is available here.

In Victoria, the NDIS will be introduced in stages over three years from 1 July 2016. The roll-out will occur on a geographic basis, which was determined by:

  • the number and needs of people with a disability currently using Victorian disability services;
  • the readiness of the disability sector to support clients to transition to the NDIS;
  • experiences to date from the NDIS trial sites.

The first Victorian area to be rolled into the NDIS is North Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, including the local government areas of Banyule, Darebin, Nillumbik, Whittlesea and Yarra, commencing from 1 July 2016.

The Central Highlands region will be next in January 2017, with Greater Bendigo to commence in May 2017.

The rest of the state will follow in this staged process, with full roll-out of the Scheme scheduled for June 2019. Victorians identified as having urgent needs (such as those on the Mental Health Community Support Needs Register) will be prioritised for access to the Scheme in each geographical area. For more information about the roll-out click here.

By 1 July 2019 around 105,000 people will be covered in Victoria. This will include 27,000 people who are new to the disability system as well as 78,000 people who currently receive support.

The plans for NDIS roll-out in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory are still to be announced. The roll-out in Western Australia depends on the evaluation of the local pilot site, which is not expected to be announced in the near future.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has announced the schedule for the NDIS roll-out across Victoria and NSW on its website.

VICSERV welcomes the end to uncertainty

Kim Koop, CEO, VICSERV, welcomed the announcement. 'We welcome this announcement and the greater certainty that this now gives mental health consumers, their families, workers and services about the future roll out of NDIS. We look forward to working with the Agency and DHHS in the transition process.'

'We are however keen to get more information on how the Scheme will be implemented, and particularly on the yet unresolved aspects of supporting people with mental illness, which have been subject to a number of review processes under the Agency's direction.'

The NDIA anticipates that each area will take up to 12 months to link in all eligible consumers with the NDIS, and provides assurance that current Commonwealth and State-funded services and programs will continue to run until eligible consumers commence their NDIS plans.

'VICSERV will continue to work with Victoria's community mental health services during this time of transition to promote NDIS readiness, and ensure consumers continue to access high quality mental health services and support.'

HACC Program

Under the Bilateral Agreement the HACC program will also be split from July 2016:

  • services for older people (people aged 65 years and over, and 50 years and over for Aboriginal people) will be directly funded and managed by the Commonwealth Government, mainly through the Commonwealth Home Support Program;
  • services for younger people (people aged under 65 years and under 50 years for Aboriginal people) will be funded and managed solely by the Victorian Government until the NDIS is in full operation. It is expected some will become NDIS participants.

More information about the agreements is available in the Bilateral agreement and phasing schedule fact sheet.

For fact sheets on the NDIS and what it means for providers and clients, visit National Disability Insurance Scheme page.

For fact sheets on the transfer of HACC services for older people to the Commonwealth, visit Home and Community Care program.

Mental Health Australia (MHA)

VICSERV is a member of the Mental Health Australia (MHA - previously Mental Health Council of Australia). MHA is the peak, national non-government organisation representing and promoting the interests of the Australian mental health sector and committed to achieving better mental health for all Australians.

MHA aims to promote mentally healthy communities, educate Australians on mental health issues, influence mental health reform so that government policies address all contemporary mental health issues, conduct research on mental health issues, and carry out regular consultation to represent the best interests of our members, partners and the community. These endeavours in education and policy reform are matched by our commitment to researching more innovative approaches to the provision of mental health care. In addition, MHA continues to focus on the human rights of people with a mental illness.

PROjects and activities

Follow the links below to read more about each activity:

World Mental Heatlh Day

Research into mental health and wellbeing of Australians

Long term targets for mental health

NDIS Capacity Building Project

Developing an Australian Mental Health Care Classification


Operational Plan for NDIS 2016

The Operational Plan for NDIS in Victoria has been released. The Operational Plan serves as the roadmap for transitioning to the NDIS in Victoria.

The Plan sets out the implementation arrangements for the Bilateral Agreement and other key deliverables, which were agreed between the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), State Government of Victoria and Commonwealth Government, to support the roll out of the full NDIS. Click here to access the plan.

Policy Resources and Links

Key frameworks and standards


Community Mental Health Support Services By Catchment

Access to Mental Health Community Support Services (MHCSS) is via the catchment-based intake assessment services. 

Intake Assessment Service

The intake assessment function operation in all 15 MHCSS service catchments. 

The service proivdes a telephone-based assessment to determine a person's eligibility and priority for MHCSS individualised client support packages, youth residential rehabilitation services, adult residential rehabilitation services and supported accommodation services. 

Agencies Involved

The three agencies delivering this service across the catchment areas are:

  • Australian Community Support Organisation (ACSO)
  • Eastern Access Community Health (EACH)
  • Neami National.

Any agency or individual that supports a person with a psychiatric disability can make a referral to their local intake assessment agency.

MCHSS providers, as well as other health and community services, should make a supported referral to their local intake assessment agency when they have identified a person who may benefit from MHCSS.

How to contact catchment-based intake assessment services
Regional Victoria

Contact: ACSO, 1300 022 760, 9am–5pm Monday to Friday, for the following areas:

  • Gippsland
  • Goulburn Valley
  • Grampians
  • Great South Coast
  • Hume
  • Loddon Mallee areas
Metropolitan Melbourne – North, Inner East, East

EACH covers the North, Inner East and East catchments. These comprise the following local government areas: Banyule, Boroondara, Cardinia, Casey, Darebin, Greater Dandenong, Knox, Manningham, Maroondah, Monash, Shire of Nillumbik, Shire of Yarra Ranges, Whitehorse and Whittlesea. 

Contact: EACH, 1300 785 358, 9am–5pm Monday to Friday.

Metropolitan Melbourne – South West, North East, Inner North, Bayside and Frankston

NEAMI covers the South West, North East, Inner North, Bayside and Frankston catchments. These comprise the following local government areas: Bayside, Brimbank, Frankston, Glen Eira, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Kingston, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Melton, Moonee Valley, Moreland, Mornington Peninsula, Port Phillip, Stonnington, Wyndham and Yarra.

Contact: Neami National, 1300 379 462, 9am–5pm Monday to Friday.


For more information regarding MHCSS programs please visit health.vic or call one of the above mentioned organisations.