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NSW Government launches Mental Health Innovation Fund to support improvements to mental health services

HealthTech startups are being urged by the NSW Government to come up with health driven innovations to combat mental illness, which it will support through its new $4 million Mental Health Innovation Fund. 

NSW Minister for Mental Health, Pru Goward wants non-government organisations to assist the government in managing the complex problem of mental health. She believes that there are smarter ways of breaking into the intergenerational cycle of mental illness.

“The Innovation Fund will finance innovation projects to improve mental health outcomes so people with mental illness and their families can live a better life,” said Goward.

Mental illness in Australia is estimated to cost the Australian economy at least $28.6 billion, according to research conducted by Medicare. This makes mental health a key issue for both governments and communities alike.

Applications for the fund will open mid-November and close in February 2016, giving applicants a three month window to design a project that aims at reforming mental health services in NSW. A total of $4 million will be injected into a pool of funding to be spread across the selected proposals from 2016-17.

Innovative projects that could supported by the fund include strategies to compliment clinical care, redesign of mental health services, activities to improve the integration of services and co-design of referral and care coordination pathways. As well as startups, government agencies, NGOs and individuals are also being called upon to find innovative solutions that can be sustained and funded in the future.

“The Fund will look to support world-class innovations to respond to mental health consumers with complex needs who require services and support from multiple government agencies, including Health, Justice, Education and Communities, Family and Community Services and non-government organisations,” Goward said. 

The NSW government has decided to provide seed funding to successful projects that demonstrate a sustainable care model with a future funding scheme. These care models will aim to increase service integration and improve on mental health care outside of hospitals. After a two year seed funding commitment, projects will need to match the funding through partnerships or ongoing payment systems.

Technology has already played a large part in helping to start reforming mental health services in Australia. HealthTech startup GetHappy is an app that provides strategies to increase personal happiness and wellbeing through e-therapy technology. E-Therapy is being utilised by clinical psychologists to provide therapy to those in remote and rural areas. It enables individuals to access qualified and experienced psychologists using Skype or phone technology.

“I think that with mental health being as prevalent as it is within society, that technology has the ability to assist people and direct them in ways of wellness,” said founder of GetHappy Dr Lisa Patterson-Kane.

Another assistive technology startup for improved mental care is South Australian social network TalkLife. It enables young people to disclose on personal issues of depression, self-harm and suicide. Adelaide based investors have helped TalkLife to build a sustainable business model and design a platform that aims at helping young people struggling with mental health issues, not only in Australia but around the world.

Each year approximately one in five Australians will suffer from mental health issues, making mental illness the third leading cause of disability burden in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics younger people are more likely to have a mental disorder than older people; given young people’s reliance on technology, technology is being looked at as a key way to combat mental illness. 

The Mental Health Innovation Fund will be administered by the NSW Ministry of Health and funded by the Local Health Districts. It will be a part of a 10 year road map to transform already established services.

Applications for the Fund will close on February 5 2016, with successful applicants to be announced in March. For more information on the application process, those interested can email [email protected]. Proposal applications are to be submitted here.

Image: Minister for Mental Health Pru Goward. Source: Highlands News





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