Is Mental Health Stepping Up?

The President of the Australian Clinical Psychology Association (ACPA), Assoc Prof Vida Bliokas, has today released the Association’s response to the Report of the Mental Health Reference Group (MHRG), the group tasked with reviewing the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) items related to the Better Access initiative. 

“While the Better Access scheme has become an essential part of mental health service delivery in Australia, the scheme has been widely criticised for its one-size-fits-all approach. In particular, the 10-session annual limit has left people experiencing moderate to severe mental health conditions grossly underserviced.”

“ACPA applauds the MHRGs recommendation for a stepped care model that provides for evidence-based psychological interventions at an adequate treatment dosage of 20-40 sessions for those with moderate-severe mental health conditions. It is only through provision of sufficient treatment that we are able to move away from symptom management to a model that truly supports recovery.”

“We recommend that those with mild mental health conditions continue to be provided with high-fidelity, focussed psychological strategies, through face-to-face delivery and/or digital mental health services.”

“ACPA calls on the Federal Government and The Hon Greg Hunt, Minister for Health, to ensure that a commitment to quality and safety is embedded within this stepped-care model. Specifically, the MBS reforms must ensure that people with moderate to severe mental health conditions have access to psychological therapy services delivered by the best qualified clinicians to meet their needs. Central to this is adherence to standards defined by regulatory bodies, with reference to international training standards.”

“The psychology profession is not a homogenous discipline. Different types and levels of training result in varying skill sets and competencies. It is imperative that this variety of skills be effectively and safely utilised to best meet the need – the right people, at the right place, at the right time.”

“Similar to medicine, all registered psychologists have general psychology training. As patients present with more severe, chronic, and/or complex disorders, referral to specialists in the appropriate field is indicated.”

“The Psychology Board of Australia has designated specific Areas of Practice Endorsement attained through advanced qualifications and extensive supervision in specialised areas of psychological practice. The Area of Practice Endorsement that specialises specifically in mental health disorders is clinical psychology.”

“It is imperative that the new stepped care model reflects the distinction between practitioner accredited training levels and their respective expected scope of work, and thereby provides transparency and informed choice for the public.”

“If we get this review of the MBS mental health services right, it will be of enormous benefit to those experiencing mental health issues.”