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Transformation of Mental Health in Greece: Towards an Integrated Care System

Introduction

As part of a government initiative, Deputy Minister of Health, Dimitris Vartzopoulos, recently unveiled the new National Action Plan for the reform of the national mental health system, which will be formally discussed in the Parliament at the beginning of 2024. This programme, which reflects a contemporary approach to mental health care, marks a significant step toward improving services and addressing the challenges faced by society. The initiative of the Greek government to reform the mental health system represents a significant step towards improving the care for individuals with mental health issues in Greece.

The Pillars

A central pillar of the plan is the transition from the traditional model of psychiatric care to a more intensive community-based system. Key priorities include inter alia, combining service fragmentation and creating an integrated system based on community needs. This involves the creation of more accessible and specialised services that address the real needs of individuals at all levels.

In addition, an important feature of the programme is the emphasis on prevention and promotion of mental health. The establishment of programmes aimed at preventing mental health problems, as well as addressing early signs of concern, reflects a more systematic approach to mental health.

At the same time, the new National Action Plan envisions the creation of a National Network of Mental Health Services, structured into 7 Regional Networks. This collaborative model with Health Regions aims to improve coordination and cooperation among services, offering integrated care for patients. Furthermore, the plan addresses issues related to inadequate infrastructure and clinical overlap by proposing the transformation of asylum structures into networks of community services, aiming to tackle problems by strengthening prevention and care provision at the community level.

Another crucial element of the programme is the management of addictions through the establishment of the National Organisation for Prevention and Treatment of Addictions. The approach involves the collaboration of all relevant organisations to provide multidimensional support to those facing addiction issues.

Finally, the introduction of the Information System for Epidemiological Recording and Therapeutic Management represents another tool for effective monitoring and improvement of intervention programmes, emphasizing the enhancement of health levels across the country.

What’s in for patients and society?

Overall, the Greek plan for mental health reform presents a comprehensive and preventive approach to tackling the burden of mental health issues by supporting collaboration, prevention, and care provision at the community level.

The focus on prevention and early intervention reflects a contemporary understanding of mental health, recognising the importance of proactive measures. By creating structures for preventing mental health issues and swiftly addressing initial signs of concern the programme can significantly reduce their burden on patients and society. Additionally, the shift towards community-based care may result in a more cost-effective system in the long term, as it aims to reduce the reliance on private healthcare and prevent the escalation of mental health issues, potentially saving resources in the long run.

Moreover, the plan’s focus on addiction through the creation of the National Organisation for Prevention and Treatment of Addictions acknowledges the interconnected nature of mental health issues, while the Information System for Epidemiological Recording and Therapeutic Management adds an epidemiological dimension to the plan, enabling effective monitoring and improvement of intervention programmes. This reflects a commitment to data-driven decision-making and continuous improvement.

In this context, the Greek plan for mental health reform aligns with the recently published EU Strategy on Mental Health by adopting a comprehensive approach that prioritises prevention, affordable healthcare access, and social reintegration, echoing the EU’s guiding principles. Both initiatives recognize the interlinkage of mental health with physical health and emphasise a cross-sectoral approach to address multifaceted risk factors. The Greek plan’s focus on prevention aligns with the EU’s initiatives, like a depression and suicide prevention initiative, contributing to broader European efforts for improved mental health across Member States.

Conclusion

In summary, the Greek plan for the transformation of mental health signifies a progressive leap towards enhancing the well-being of individuals grappling with mental health challenges. By pivoting from conventional psychiatric models to a community-focused system, the initiative aims to scale service fragmentation and cater to the genuine needs of the population. The plan’s emphasis on prevention, the creation of specialised services, regional collaboration through the National Network of Mental Health Services, and the innovative use of technology in recording and managing interventions collectively represent a holistic approach. Simultaneously, the proposed transformation of asylums into community service networks and the dedicated focus on addiction underscore the plan’s commitment to addressing root issues. If effectively implemented, by adequate resource allocation, enhanced stakeholder collaboration, and operative evaluation of the programme’s effectiveness, this comprehensive strategy promises improved patient access, cost-efficient care, and alignment with contemporary mental health priorities, setting a noteworthy example for other nations grappling with similar challenges in mental healthcare

Author:
Georgios Mavrodimitrakis

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