The origins of the Mental Health Community Coalition of the ACT must be considered in the context of the history of mental health care in Australia.
Since the middle of the 20th century, there was a gradual shift towards community-based care and smaller psychiatric units in hospitals, rather than large institutions. This was accompanied by an increase in the number of people who were able to manage their illness well, without requiring admission to hospital.
In the latter part of the 1990s, the Recovery-oriented approach was starting to gain traction as a more effective way to assist individuals affected by mental illness.
Two of the fundamental concepts of Recovery practice are that recovery from mental illness is achievable, and that wherever possible, recovery should take place in the community rather than in a hospital setting.
This new approach not only transformed the landscape for consumers and carers, it also revolutionised service delivery for community-based organisations. They were no longer support players to major government institutions; instead, they became front-line service providers.
As government policies adjusted to accommodate this new framework, a number of consumers, carers and other individuals in the Canberra community saw a need (and opportunity) to bring together the otherwise fragmented organisations working throughout the region. Their common goal was an interest in developing a comprehensive and integrated approach to psychosocial rehabilitation and community support in the Australian Capital Territory.
This task would be undertaken by a new, independent and broadly-based community organisation that would coordinate the policy, service and community development activities that would be necessary.
Following three years of extensive consultations facilitated by the ACT Council of Social Service, the Mental Health Community Coalition of the ACT held its inaugural Annual General Meeting in 2004.
The process of evolution has continued since, and today, MHCC ACT is just one of three organisations recognised by the ACT Government as peak bodies representing the community mental health sector. MHCC ACT principally speaks on behalf of community-based mental health service providers; the Mental Health Consumer Network advocates on behalf of consumers; while Carers ACT is the peak body recognised as representing carers.
MHCC ACT works closely with the other peak organisations as well as with individuals in the community, to ensure that as far as possible, all policy positions taken by MHCC ACT are informed by the needs of consumers and carers.