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The meeting held on 8 and 9 September examined strategies and evidence informed best practice in the provision of integrated support for adults with mental ill health. It welcomed more than 100 participants over two days, with insightful keynote addresses by representatives from the public and private sectors, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the World Health Organisation (WHO).  

Working together for better outcomes

Discussions on the first day focused on the cross-sectoral nature of mental health and the need for coordination between different sectors for the provision of integrated mental health services. We learned about examples of national strategies in Malta and Finland. Sarita Friman from the Finnish government highlighted the need to invest in broad, long-term and cross-cutting collaboration between different sectors to improve integrated care in the community for people with mental health issues.

Discussions on the second day examined practices aimed at improving accessibility, effectiveness, and high-quality mental health care in the community. Delegates were given an overview of the programmes and initiatives the European Commission has carried out to address mental illness and in particular its social challenges. Attendees also engaged in mutual learning and an exchange of practice on local integrated support for adults with mental health issues with examples from Denmark, Italy and Latvia. According to Lars Kunz Schubert from Denmark, the major challenge in the provision of an integrated system of support was the lack of networking and joined up organisations between different sectors.

Finance, fragmentation and stigma as key challenges

Over the two days speakers highlighted the need to address gaps in finance, fragmentation in service coordination and delivery and, importantly, the issue of stigma. Adequate resourcing, prioritisation and political will were identified as key to the implementation of integrated strategies seeking to address mental ill health more laterally.

The most common thread to success identified in the practices was a coordinated approach which brought together a range of services working from the perspective of person who uses the services with the objective of improving their life outcomes. Key practical tools used to achieve this were individualised programming and accompanying plans, joint assessments, and the participation of people using services.

Elements of success

Integrating different forms of support in the community is key in service delivery for people with mental health problems. There is a variety of drivers for collaborating/integrated service delivery guided by policy and professional developments with the aim to achieve better outcomes for people. Integrated service delivery may also be inspired by other practice, hence our role at ESN on practice identification and analysis. “With this analysis, we’ve identified key elements that enable integrated care in the community, including well-functioning accessible services supported by technology and funding; inter-professional work; person-centredness, and always having in mind the improvement of people’s lives”, explained Alfonso Montero, CEO of ESN, at the meeting closure.

These principles and relevant practice will be documented in a publication foreseen for 2021 assessing integrated care and support for different population groups throughout the life-cycle.


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