The Partners in Recovery (PIR) initiative, funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, aims to better support people with severe and persistent mental illness by providing a more coordinated system response to a person’s mental health needs.
Mental health is an essential ingredient of individual and community wellbeing and significantly contributes to the social, cultural and economic life of Victoria. Each year, one in five Victorians will experience a mental health condition, with 45 per cent of Victorians experiencing that in a lifetime. Certain population groups are at higher risk of poor mental health and mental illness because of greater exposure and vulnerability to unfavourable social, economic and environmental circumstances. Mental disorders are a significant cause of disability or non-fatal disease burden in Australia. About one in eight Victorian adults reported high or very high levels of psychological distress in 2011–12, which is unchanged since 2003.
People experiencing severe and persistent mental illness who also have complex service needs require a comprehensive and coordinated response from a range of sectors including health, housing, income support, disability, education and employment. Partners in Recovery is designed to facilitate inter-agency collaboration and better coordinated pathways to recovery for this cohort and their families and carers. PIR also aims to improve the service system so that people are able to access the support they need for their recovery, health and wellbeing.
The National Mental Health Commission’s (NMHC) Report of the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services analysed the service system response across the continuum of mental health.  It found a fragmented, complex, inefficient and unaccountable service system for people living with severe and persistent mental illness – the PIR target group. Submissions to the NMHC highlighted the value and positive impact of the PIR program, and the NMHC concluded that PIR has shown promise in providing coordinated support in the areas in which it has been implemented. The work of PIR support facilitators, who guide consumers through the service system, was also identified as a positive approach to service integration.
The ten Victorian PIR Organisations believe that the first two years of the PIR program have already driven improvements to people’s lives, and have set out to capture and share the promising outcomes and lessons learnt from the program’s effect on local systems in a White Paper, final to be delivered in November 2015 by Larter. The White Paper seeks to synthesise the multiple and diverse systems change activities across Victoria in order to better understand – What is it about the models that is driving change? What indicators will be most influential in achieving systemic change to improve people’s lives going forward?
Based on the PIR experience in Victoria, insight has been gained into a reform agenda which:
- focuses on the needs of users rather than providers (redesign)
- produces positive measurable results and outcomes (redirect)
- achieves system reform in line with the ambitions stated in the Report of the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services (reform).
The PIR program’s reform goals articulate a local approach to achieving system change. Seeking change in complex systems is not easy, but an essential element of PIR. Early analysis of the work of the Victorian PIR programs has identified key elements that contribute to achieving system reform, which are summarised in the White Paper preview available.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008
 Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2015-2019
 National Mental Health Commission (2014), Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities: Report of the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services Summary, p. 8-9.
 National Mental Health Commission (2014), Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities: Report of the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services. Volume 2. p. 176