What is needed to deliver collaborative care to address comorbidity more effectively for adults with a severe mental illness?

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2013 Apr;47(4):333-46. doi: 10.1177/0004867412463975. Epub 2012 Oct 17.


Objective: Innovative models of care for people with a severe mental illness have been developed across Australia to more effectively address comorbidity and disability by enhancing the collaboration between clinical and non-clinical services. In particular, this review paper focuses on collaboration that has occurred to address comorbidities affecting the following domains: homelessness; substance addiction; physical ill-health; unemployment; and forensic issues.

Method: The identification of relevant collaborative care models was facilitated by carrying out a review of the published peer-reviewed literature and policy or other published reports available on the Internet. Contact was also made with representatives of the mental health branches of each Australian state and territory health department to assist in identifying examples of innovative collaborative care models established within their jurisdiction.

Results: A number of nationally implemented and local examples of collaborative care models were identified that have successfully delivered enhanced integration of care between clinical and non-clinical services. Several key principles for effective collaboration were also identified. Governmental and organisational promotion of and incentives for cross-sector collaboration is needed along with education for staff about comorbidity and the capacity of cross-sector agencies to work in collaboration to support shared clients. Enhanced communication has been achieved through mechanisms such as the co-location of staff from different agencies to enhance sharing of expertise and interagency continuity of care, shared treatment plans and client records, and shared case review meetings. Promoting a 'housing first approach' with cross-sector services collaborating to stabilise housing as the basis for sustained clinical engagement has also been successful.

Conclusions: Cross-sector collaboration is achievable and can result in significant benefits for mental health consumers and staff of collaborating services. Expanding the availability of collaborative care across Australia is therefore a priority for achieving a more holistic, socially inclusive, and effective mental health care system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Employment / psychology
  • Forensic Psychiatry / methods
  • Health Promotion
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Models, Organizational
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy