This paper describes the older people's mental health workforce development, policy development and implementation process and quantifies the rural service delivery and access impacts over a 15‐year period in New South Wales. It highlights the factors that are considered to be critical to successful rural service development such as commitment to funding parity, investment in strong local service leadership, and development of innovative, locally adapted rural service models. Building on these foundations, the Older People's Mental Health Program in New South Wales was able to address key challenges relating to service access in rural health and develop new, sustainable specialist older people's mental health service networks. A sustained focus on policy and implementation which explicitly supports rural older people's mental health service enhancement, and development of evidence‐based models of care, has significantly improved access to specialist mental health care for older people in rural areas. It has delivered 23 new rural older people's mental health community teams and a 440% increase in the number of people accessing these teams. It has also doubled the number of acute inpatient units and established new specialist mental health‐residential aged care partnership services in rural New South Wales. It has resulted in increased access to services for the “older old,” while not diminishing older people's rates of access to general adult mental health services. It has also supported innovative, sustainable rural service models such as “hub and spoke” models and step‐up step‐down inpatient services that build on existing health and hospital infrastructure and link geographically dispersed specialist clinicians and services together in rural service delivery.