Regional responses to the challenge of delivering integrated care to older people with mental health problems in rural Australia
Henderson, Julie Anne
Muir-Cochrane, Eimear Caitlin
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Objective: Integrated care has been identified as means of managing the demands on the healthcare budget while improving access to and quality of services. It is particularly pertinent to rural health services, which face limited access to specialist and support services. This paper explores the capacity of three rural communities in South Australia to deliver integrated mental health support for older people. Methods: Thirty-one interviews were conducted with local health and social service providers from mental health, community health, general practice, residential aged care, private practice, NGOs and local government as part of a larger action research project on service integration. Results: Participants highlighted differences in service delivery between the communities related to size of the community and access to services. Three structural barriers to delivery of integrated care were identified. These are as follows: fragmentation of governmental responsibility, the current funding climate, and centralisation and standardisation of service delivery. Conclusion: We conclude that despite a focus upon integrated care in mental health policy, many features of current service delivery undermine the flexibility and informal relationships that typically underpin integration in rural communities.