The Annual Meeting was attended by over 290 delegates from across Australia comprised of policy makers, mental health sector representatives, client and carer representatives and PIR staff who were interested to hear of the progress of the Initiative.
PIR is an innovative program delivering mental health service coordination. It was established by the Commonwealth Department of Health to support people with severe and persistent mental illness with complex needs, as well as their carers and families. PIR aims to better coordinate services across sectors to support positive change for clients to support their mental health outcomes, by coordinating access to services to support client housing security, physical health and social connectedness.
Urbis was commissioned in 2013 to conduct the three year evaluation and monitoring study, to determine the extent to which PIR has improved the coordination and integration of services, and whether this has had an impact on the social, personal and health outcomes of the target group.
As one of the key presentations at the Annual Meeting, Alison and Poppy were asked to report the emerging findings of the evaluation at the conclusion of the second year.
They revealed that PIR is not only reaching the hard to engage target client group but provided evidence that the program is having a positive effect on the lives of individual clients and their carers and families, critically often extending beyond mental health outcomes to social, housing and other unmet needs. One client of the program said, “It was like having a lifeline thrown out to me, it was my responsibility to grab hold of that lifeline and use it.”
In addition to service coordination for individuals, PIR also has a role in system reform and the evaluation determined that PIR demonstrates the potential to reform the system it operates in. There is strong evidence that cross-sectoral partnerships and projects being developed have the capacity to better support the needs of the target group. One example of system reform commonly reported nationally is the development of special interest groups to design cross-sectoral solutions to supporting the target group. For example, special interest groups included a focus on housing solutions, approaches to better addressing hoarding and squalor, and methods to better support clients with a specific diagnosis. The PIR model is underpinned by the unique and flexible design of the program, very strong cross-sectoral partnerships and sophisticated leadership.
The PIR evaluation and monitoring program demonstrates the critical role of evaluation in informing public sector decision making, with Urbis providing advice to the Department of Health on the program.