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Primary mental health care service delivery is moving towards a 'stepped care' approach as part of the reforms implemented by the Commonwealth Department of Health. This approach will support clients access services based on their needs, at the right time.

Stepped care is an evidence-based system comprising a hierarchy of interventions, from the least to the most intensive.

Stepped Care Model

In a Stepped Care Model, service delivery is defined by three core elements:

  • A range of needs exist within a population, and an individual’s needs also change over time. A spectrum of interventions are available to meet different needs, from mental health promotion, early intervention and prevention, through to multiagency coordinated care.
  • A person accessing mental health services is able to receive a level of intervention that meets their current needs and preferences.
  • An individual does not need to start at the least intensive intervention in order to progress to the next ‘step’. Rather, a person enters the system and accessed a service that aligns to their needs and choice.

Stepped Care Principles

Stepped Care Principles are the underpinning foundation of the stepped care approach in mental health services.

Under the Stepped Care Principles, services are focused on client choice as well as matched to the individual’s needs and recovery goals. Client needs are reflected on a continuum and service interventions are offered across a spectrum matching the severity and complexity of needs and preferences. An individual does not generally have to start at the lowest, least intensive level of intervention to progress to the next ‘step’. Rather, they can enter the system and have their service level aligned to their individual requirements and needs.

Services should be connected, easy to access, flexible and responsive to changing client needs. In addition, services commissioned by CESPHN are expected to be informed by evidence and accountable with a key focus on the underserviced groups, including: children, young people, people who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in the CESPHN region.

document pdf text Download a pdf PDF copy of the Stepped Care Model and Principles (1.47 MB)

Stepped Care Model Principles