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    State and territory Community Mental Health Care (255KB)
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    Community Mental Health Care tables (202KB XLS).
    Tables (202KB XLS)

    Mental illness is frequently treated in community and hospital-based outpatient care settings. Collectively, these services are referred to as community mental health care. Data from the National Community Mental Health Care Database (NCMHCD) are used to describe the care provided by these services. The statistical counting unit used in the NCMHCD is a service contact between either a patient or a third party and a specialised community mental health care service provider. For more information about the coverage and data quality of the NCMHCD, see the data source section. Staff industrial action has resulted in a substantial reduction in data coverage for two jurisdictions: Victoria (2011–12, 2012–13 and 2015–16) and Tasmania  (2011–12 and 2012–13). The observed reductions in both service contact and patient numbers are considered to be primarily due to these missing data and consequently, long term trends in the total number of service contacts are not available.

    See the footnotes in each of the tables for details about the calculation of national rates for the years 2011–12, 2012–13 and 2015–16.


    Key points

    • Around 9.4 million community mental health care service contacts were provided to around 410,000 patients in 2015–16.
    • The most common principal diagnosis recorded for patients during a service contact was Schizophrenia, followed by Depressive episode and Bipolar affective disorder.
    • The most frequently recorded type of community mental health care service contact was with an individual patient (as opposed to a group session) and a duration of 5–15 minutes.
    • Involuntary contacts accounted for about one-eighth (13.5%) of all contacts.

    Data in this section was last updated in October 2017.


    Community mental health care service provision

    States and territories

    Around 9.4 million service contacts were provided to patients in 2015–16. The number of service contacts per 1,000 population varied between states and territories in 2015–16, with the Australian Capital Territory reporting the highest rate (822.1) and Tasmania the lowest (286.6). Differences in jurisdictional data reporting systems may contribute to the observed variation in service contact rates.

    The number of unique patients provided with service contacts can be derived from the NCMHCD. However, the patient count is limited to those people registered with state and territory community mental health care systems and that have a unique person identifier—that is, a person has one identifier across all individual service providers within a state or territory. The ability of jurisdictions to generate unique person identifiers varies, as described in the data quality statement for the Community Mental Health Care National Minimum Data Set (CMHC NMDS). In 2015–16, 96.5% of all service contacts reported were provided to unique patients.

    Around 410,000 people received community mental health care in 2015–16. The number of patients per 1,000 population ranged between 11.3 (Victoria) and 29.9 (Northern Territory) (Figure CMHC.1).


    Figure CMHC.1 Community mental health care patients, states and territories, 2015–16

    Vertical bar chart showing community mental health care rates for patients for states and territories in 2015–16. Vic reported the lowest rate of (11.3 patients per 1,000 population). The NT reported the highest (29.9), followed by ACT (27.1) SA (23.1), WA (21.6), Qld (19.9), Tas (18.9) and NSW (16.6). Nationally there were 17.3 patients per 1,000 population. Refer to Table CMHC.1.

    Source: National Community Mental Health Care Database.

    Source data: State and territory community mental health care Table CMHC.1 (202KB XLS).


    Amount of treatment received

    Two important measures of the amount of treatment provided to registered patients can be derived from the NCMHCD:

    1. Length of treatment period-the total amount of time between the first and last service contact for each patient during the reporting period. Treatment periods are defined in this report as very brief (1‑14 days), short term (15-91 days) and medium to longer term (92+ days).
    2. Number of treatments days provided-the number of days during the reporting period that an individual patient received one or more service contact. The number of treatment days are grouped as follows in Table CMHC.22; 1–9 days, 10–19 days, 20–29 days, 30–39 days and 40+ days.

    Overall, around 2 in 5 patients (40.8% or 168,981 registered patients) had a medium to longer term length of treatment period (92+ days) and received the majority (83.3%) of treatment days in 2015–16 (Figure CMHC.2). Around a third of patients (35.9% or 148,875 registered patients) had a very brief length of treatment period (1–14 days) and received 5.2% of the total number of treatment days.


    Figure CMHC.2 Number of patients and total treatment days (per cent), by length of treatment period, 2015–16

    Stacked vertical bar chart showing length of treatment period and proportion of registered patients and treatment days that fall into each of the lengths of treatment periods. For patients, 40.8%  medium to longer term treatment (92+ days), 35.9% very brief treatment (1–14 days) and 23.3% short term treatment (15–91 days). The majority of treatment days were in the medium to longer term treatment (83.3%) then short term  (11.5%) and very brief  (5.2%). Refer to table CMHC.22.

    Source: National Community Mental Health Care Database.

    Source data: State and territory community mental health care Table CMHC.22 (202KB XLS).


    Over time

    After taking population changes into account, service contact rates increased in most jurisdictions since 2011–12 (Figure CMHC.3). The Northern Territory had the greatest annual average increase (11.3%) between 2011–12 and 2015–16, followed by Queensland and Tasmania (both 10.4%). Issues with data coverage for Victorian and Tasmanian data in 2011–12 and 2012–13 and 2015–16 (Victoria only), have had an impact on the ability to perform long term trend analysis for these jurisdictions, as well as at the national level. Consequently, the national rates should be interpreted with caution.


    Figure CMHC.3 State and territory community mental health care service contacts, 2011–12 to 2015–16

     Clustered bar graph showing community mental health care contact rates per 1,000 population for states and territories from 2011–12 to 2015–16. The trend analysis shows that for most jurisdictions the rate of service contacts has increased over time but results need to be interpreted with caution due to issues with data coverage for Victorian and Tasmanian data in 2011–12 and 2012–13 and Victoria in 2015–16. Refer to Table CMHC.2.

    Note: The total rate for 2011–12 and 2012–13 uses adjusted population data which accounts for missing data, as detailed in the online technical information

    Source: National Community Mental Health Care Database.
    Source data: State and territory community mental health care Table CMHC.2 (202KB XLS).

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