MHPN network in Alice Springs expands platform for PHN collaboration

08 September 2020  Network Story

Primary health networks (PHNs) have the ideal opportunity to connect with mental health professionals by providing guest speakers to, attending or leading, a MHPN-supported network meeting.

MHPN supports 365 networks nationally with many specific-interest and general networks that align with PHN strategic priorities.

The Northern Territory PHN regularly attends network meetings of the Alice Springs Mental Health Professionals Interagency, and for the first time, the NT PHN provided a formal presentation at a meeting in July.

Executive Manager Health Commissioning for the NT PHN, Ms Le Smith, talked to network participants about two key priority areas: Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Regional Plan and Mental Health Workforce Needs Assessment.

‘The NT PHN really appreciates the opportunity to engage with frontline workers as we acknowledge it is essential to inform comprehensive planning and commissioning.  It is also fantastic to engage through forums such as MHPN as it provides an ability to engage with multiple stakeholders in one setting, which can otherwise be difficult across a large geographical jurisdiction (the whole of the NT)’, says Le.

The Alice Springs Mental Health Professionals Interagency coordinator, Ms Nicole Pietsch, who works at Mental Health Association of Central Australia (MHACA), says, ‘meeting attendees appreciated the opportunity to directly hear from the NT PHN on two important NT PHN-led projects’.

‘Frontline workers have few opportunities to hear about or feed into the work of the NT PHN so this meeting enabled attendees the opportunity for direct feedback, the capacity to ask questions and understand the NT PHN work in more detail. Being part of a MHPN-supported network provides a link for our community into the national mental health network and provides access to extra support and resources which are invaluable’.

The Alice Springs interagency meets more than most networks - six times a year- which may surprise their urban counterparts.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the network is currently offering a mix of face-to-face and videoconferencing meetings. Despite an easing of crowd number restrictions in the NT, MHACA is seeking to limit face-to-face gatherings in preference for videoconferencing, says Nicole.

‘We have found videoconferencing enables different members of the interagency to be able to attend, as we have remote workers and members that dial in from Darwin’.

‘We maintain regular meetings as members of our community understand the importance of collaboration and networking. Being a smaller remote regional community many of the clients cross over between services so working collaboratively on emerging issues is important’, says Nicole.

She identifies the following key needs that the network fulfils:

  • Opportunities for sector networking
  • Information and knowledge sharing
  • Helps build a sense of community and working together
  • Reminds organisations to work collaboratively and not in silos
  • Ability to identify emerging issues or trends
  • Reinforces a whole of community approach
  • Ability to engage with Darwin representatives and NT peak body Northern Territory Mental Health Coalition
  • Access professional development opportunities not readily available in a remote context

    ‘Facilitating a mental health professionals network enables MHACA to lead important conversations in our community on emerging issues in mental health and to work on collaborative responses to improving services’, Nicole says.

    Now that MHPN offers the option of online meetings for local networks, more opportunities are arising for guest speakers.

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