Key concepts

State and territory community mental health care services
Key concept Description
Community mental health care Community mental health care refers to government‑funded and -operated specialised mental health care provided by community mental health care services and hospital‑based ambulatory care services, such as outpatient and day clinics. 
The state and territory mental health acts and regulations provide the legislative cover that safeguards the rights and governs the treatment of patients with mental illness in admitted patient care, residential care and community-based services. The legislation varies between the state and territory jurisdictions but all contain provisions for the assessment, admission and treatment of patients on an involuntary basis, defined as ‘persons who are detained in hospital or compulsorily treated in the community under mental health legislation for the purpose of assessment or provision of appropriate treatment or care’.
Service contacts Service contacts are defined as the provision of a clinically significant service by a specialised mental health service provider for patient/clients, other than those admitted to psychiatric hospitals or designated psychiatric units in acute care hospitals and those resident in 24‑hour staffed specialised residential mental health services, where the nature of the service would normally warrant a dated entry in the clinical record of the patient/client in question. Any one patient can have one or more service contacts over the relevant financial year period. Service contacts are not restricted to face‑to‑face communication but can include telephone, video link or other forms of direct communication. Service contacts can also be either with the patient or with a third party, such as a carer or family member, and/or other professional or mental health worker, or other service provider
Target population

Some specialised mental health services data are categorised using 5 target population groups (see METeOR identifier 493010):

Child and adolescent services focus on those aged under 18 years.

Older person services focus on those aged 65 years and over.

Forensic health services provide services primarily for people whose health condition has led them to commit, or be suspected of, a criminal offence or make it likely that they will reoffend without adequate treatment or containment.

General services provides services to the adult population, aged 18 to 64, however, these services may also provide assistance to children, adolescents or older people.

Youth services target children and young people generally aged 16–24 years.

Note that, in some states, specialised mental health beds for aged persons are jointly funded by the Australian and state and territory governments. However, not all states or territories report such jointly funded beds through the National Mental Health Establishments Database.

Treatment days

Treatment day refers to any day on which one or more service contacts (direct or indirect) are recorded for a registered patient (that is, a patient identifier number is assigned to a uniquely identified person) during an ambulatory care episode. 

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