Is the Partners in Recovery program connecting with the intended population of people living with severe and persistent mental illness? What are their prioritised needs?

Nicola Hancock, Jennifer Smith-Merry, James A Gillespie, Ivy Yen
Australian Health Review: a Publication of the Australian Hospital Association 2017, 41 (5): 566-572
Objective The Partners in Recovery (PIR) program is an Australian government initiative designed to make the mental health and social care sectors work in more coordinated ways to meet the needs of those with severe and complex mental illness. Herein we reflect on demographic data collected during evaluation of PIR implementation in two Western Sydney sites. The aims of the present study were to: (1) explore whether two Sydney-based PIR programs had recruited their intended population, namely people living with severe and persistent mental illness; and (2) learn more about this relatively unknown population and their self-identified need priorities. Methods Routinely collected initial client assessment data were analysed descriptively. Results The data suggest that the two programs are engaging the intended population. The highest unmet needs identified included psychological distress, lack of daytime activities and company, poor physical health and inadequate accommodation. Some groups remain hard to connect, including people from Aboriginal and other culturally diverse communities. Conclusions The data confirm that the PIR program, at least in the two regions evaluated, is mostly reaching its intended audience. Some data were being collected inconsistently, limiting the usefulness of the data and the ability to build on PIR findings to develop ongoing support for this population. What is known about the topic? PIR is a unique national program funded to engage with and address the needs of Australians living with severe and persistent mental illness by facilitating service access. What does this paper add? This paper reports on recruitment of people living with severe and persistent mental illness, their need priorities and data collection. These are three central elements to successful roll-out of the much anticipated mental health component of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, as well as ongoing PIR operation. What are the implications for practitioners? Active recruitment, exploration of self-reported need priorities and routine outcome measurement are essential yet challenging work practices when working with people living with severe and persistent mental illness.

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