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Innovation in youth mental health services in Australia: common characteristics across the first headspace centres

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Abstract

Aim

headspace centres comprise a significant innovation in community-based youth mental health service delivery in Australia. This paper examines the service activity of the first headspace centres to determine common and unique practice characteristics across headspace centres in this new approach to mental health service delivery.

Methods

Data come from quarterly progress reports provided by the first 30 headspace centres during the 2010–2011 financial year. The information from 120 reports was analysed qualitatively using thematic analysis techniques to determine the types of activities reported by centres against key performance indicators.

Results

The main finding was the large number and wide range of centre activity. This heterogeneity may be explained in part by the diversity of communities across Australia and the importance that headspace places on addressing the specific needs of the local community as well as drawing upon the existing capacity that is available within a community. The most common activities were community engagement, building local partnerships and providing a youth friendly environment. There was a particularly strong focus by the majority of centres on establishing and supporting a Youth Reference Group to guide centre development and implementation.

Conclusions

The progressive upscaling of headspace centres across Australia provides a unique opportunity to observe how a significant reorientation in health service delivery is implemented in practice to meet the needs of diverse communities. Further investigation of the headspace experience will provide critical lessons for other countries investing in new approaches to youth mental health.

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