Integrated mental health atlas of the Western Sydney Local Health District: gaps and recommendations
Objective Australian mental health care remains hospital centric and fragmented; it is riddled with gaps and does little to promote recovery. Reform must be built on better knowledge of the shape of existing services. Mental health atlases are an essential part of this knowledge base, enabling comparison with other regions and jurisdictions, but must be based on a rigorous classification of services. The main aim of this study is to create an integrated mental health atlas of the Western Sydney LHD in order to help decision makers to better plan informed by local evidence. Methods The standard classification system, namely the Description and Evaluation of Services and Directories in Europe for Long-term Care model, was used to describe and classify adult mental health services in the Western Sydney Local Health District (LHD). This information provided the foundation for accessibility maps and the analysis of the provision of care for people with a lived experience of mental illness in Western Sydney LHD. All this data was used to create the Integrated Mental Health Atlas of Western Sydney LHD. Results The atlas identified four major gaps in mental health care in Western Sydney LHD: (1) a lack of acute and sub-acute community residential care; (2) an absence of services providing acute day care and non-acute day care; (3) low availability of specific employment services for people with a lived experience of mental ill-health; and (4) a lack of comprehensive data on the availability of supported housing. Conclusions The integrated mental health atlas of the Western Sydney LHD provides a tool for evidence-informed planning and critical analysis of the pattern of adult mental health care. What is known about the topic? Several reports have highlighted that the Australian mental health system is hospital based and fragmented. However, this knowledge has had little effect on actually changing the system. What does this paper add? This paper provides a critical analysis of the pattern of adult mental health care provided within the boundaries of the Western Sydney LHD using a standard, internationally validated tool to describe and classify the services. This provides a good picture of the availability of adult mental health care at the local level that was hitherto lacking. What are the implications for practitioners? The data presented herein provide a better understanding of the context in which mental health practitioners work. Managers and planners of services providing care for people with a lived experience of mental illness can use the information herein for better planning informed by local evidence.