Three years ago, Sarah* was scared to think about her future. She was struggling with serious mental illness, unable to work, and with little support to help her navigate the health system.
The mother of a young daughter, she was desperate to get her life on track.
"I was doing the revolving door of going in and out of psychiatric hospitals, usually as an involuntary patient," Sarah said.
"I felt lost and afraid of the future. I kept wondering if my present was going to be my future."
But today it's a different story for Sarah. She's studying part-time and planning for her life ahead.
A major turning point was a psychologist suggesting the program, Partners in Recovery, through Newcastle-based health services provider Hunter Primary Care, which was the beginning for her to benefit from coordinated personal support for people with severe and persistent mental illness with complex needs.
The Commonwealth-funded program also assisted Sarah to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which enabled her to continue to receive coordination of the multiple sectors and services she comes into contact with so they all work together in a more collaborative and integrated way.
A Hunter Primary Care NDIS support coordinator works one-on-one with each person to help them navigate the system, access the health services they need, and achieve their goals.
Sarah said she felt an instant change when she began working with her first support coordinator through Hunter Primary Care.
Her coordinator worked with her to organise her care, communicate with providers, and understand how to easily get the benefit of the NDIS.
"I was immediately reassured by her respectful attitude, innovative strategies and positive energy," she said.
"Services that were useful to me were put in place. If I ever needed to negotiate or disengage with a service my coordinator assisted me.
"And because of the coordinator I feel safe knowing that when I have another episode there is someone to turn to when I need further help to stay home with my daughter."
Hunter Primary Care Mental Health Care Coordination Manager, Sally Regan, said the services had delivered major improvements in people's lives, particularly with increased funding through the NDIS.
"Our experience delivering the Hunter Partners in Recovery program over the last six years has shown many people with severe mental illness had been falling through the gaps," Ms Regan said.
"Hunter Primary Care is continuing to witness profound changes in the lives of people supported through the NDIS Support Coordination services.
"This ground-breaking reform is providing much-needed support that was previously unavailable. It can be key to making a difference to people with a psychosocial disability as a result of a mental illness."
Ms Regan said the recovery-oriented and person-centred support of Hunter Primary Care NDIS Support Coordination, combined with other funding through the NDIS, was helping previously isolated people "move from the shadows of crisis".
"The NDIS is able to take the work of Partners in Recovery many steps further as more funding is delivering services that meet basic needs as well as enhancing people's quality of life," she said.
"Hunter Primary Care's NDIS Support Coordination has assisted many people to obtain stable housing, maintain and manage their home, undertake everyday tasks which previously may have seemed just too hard or overwhelming.
"Many people we support were very isolated and have now been able to study, volunteer or gain employment. For others, it's the small things that are making a difference such as getting their shopping done or getting out to see friends."
For Sarah, the support has been a lifesaver. "I have nothing but praise for my experience and look forward to continuing the working relationship with Hunter Primary Care," she said.
"I've gone from not being able to predict my future and being unable to work, to studying. I put this down in large part to having the security and support of my coordinators."
*Name has been changed for privacy
For more information on how Hunter Primary Care can support you or someone you know with a mental illness in the NDIS contact our NDIS team.