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New national standards for the delivery of safer mental healthcare in the community are being launched today.

The National Safety and Quality Mental Health (NSQMH) Standards for Community Managed Organisations have been developed by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission).

The standards are aimed to help raise the bar for the delivery local mental health services by community managed organisations (CMOs) across the country.

More than 200 CMOs in Australia, mostly not-for-profit, non-government organisations, provide mental health services across Australia, often sharing care with public health services, primary care providers and private health. “For the first time, Australia has a contemporary set of standards specific to the delivery of mental health services by community managed organisations, which is a breakthrough for the sector,” Commission Executive Lead of the Mental Health Standards, David McGrath said.

“Over a lifetime, almost half of us will experience a mental health disorder – so there’s a high likelihood many of us will need to access support services during our life journey.”

Commission Executive Lead of the Mental Health Standards, David McGrath

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of providing local mental healthcare.

Up to 100,000 Australians seek mental health support from CMOs every year, including for psychosocial rehabilitation, helpline and counselling services, sub-acute step up/step down services, accommodation support, self-help and peer support, as well as employment, education and family and carer support.

The NSQMH Standards for CMOs comprise three core standards: Practice Governance, Partnering with Consumers, Families and Carers, and Model of Care – each with different elements to be implemented by service providers.

Accreditation to the NSQMH Standards for CMOs will commence in early 2024.

While the new standards were voluntary, they would bring guidance and rigour to the sector, Mr McGrath said.

“The standards are a significant step in providing safety and quality assurance for consumers, their families and carers. They will build trust between service providers and the people they support, and help consumers to feel more comfortable about engaging with a service.

“It is vital that a CMO, as a condition of funding, has the necessary governance arrangements to service the community, has a robust model of care and works in partnership with consumers.”

Mental Health Coordinating Council Chief Executive Officer, Carmel Tebbutt said there had been significant consultation with the sector on the purpose designed standards.

The Commission worked closely with the CMO sector to develop the standards over 18 months, seeking input from across the sector, including consumers and their families and carers, service providers (CMOs), peer support workers and funding organisations.

Mental Health Coordinating Council Chief Executive Officer, Carmel Tebbutt

“They reflect the unique history and culture of CMOs,” Ms Tebbutt said.

“The section on values explicitly recognises that CMOs deliver services that are recovery oriented – in line with the national framework, and which encompass a trauma-informed approach.”

The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights is at the core of the standards recognising the rights of individuals to determine their own recovery pathway, in partnership with services.

The NSQMH Standards for CMOs are aligned to existing standards, including: the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards, the National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards and the National Safety and Quality Primary and Community Healthcare Standards.