Media Release 29 April: Urgent need for broader access to psychologists as stress and anxiety grows
Current Medicare system limits access to mental health services
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Australia, 29 April 2020: Psychologists around the country are calling for immediate amendments to the mental health plan in order to broaden access to mental health services for all Australian individuals and psychologists, as evidence of the nation’s growing mental health strain mounts.
The federal government today revealed that while there has been a 40% increase in calls made to the Beyond Blue helplines and mental health consultations delivered via telehealth, the use of mental health services has decreased overall. The Australian Association of Psychologists (AAPi), the peak body for psychologists in the country, highlights that the current mental health plan continues to shut out many patients from accessing vital mental health support from psychologists at a time when Australians need them most.
Tegan Carrison, Executive Director of AAPi explains, “The existing Medicare two-tier bulk billing system discriminates against the patients of registered psychologists, who make up 70% of the practitioners in Australia. These patients end up having to pay more out of pocket due to the lower rebates eligible to the majority of practitioners in the country, even though there is no evidence to warrant a difference in funding.
“AAPi is advocating for all psychologists to be able to provide sessions under the one, higher Medicare tier with immediate effect. The system currently discriminates by type of psychologist. We need to recognise that all psychologists provide an equal level of service to the same population, regardless of the practitioner’s background or qualification.”
AAPi is also urging the government to make additional provisions so more can access the support needed.
“We strongly recommend an additional 10 sessions in the mental health plan, due to the increase in stress and isolation of the Australian public. The plan should also allow temporary authorisation for Australians to self-refer to their mental health professional of choice to access rebated counselling. These would make the level of support available similar to the Bushfire Recovery Program earlier this year,” said Carrison.
Removing barriers to the access and provision of mental health services will enable individuals to see psychologists as they deal with increased anxiety and mental stress, including vulnerable groups such as the elderly, youth, indigenous community and emergency frontline workers.
“Australians need all the help possible during this difficult time. We want to make sure that everyone in our community can get support and assistance when needed. We believe we can make a significant difference to the mental health of Australians by widening the access to treatment from all psychologists, who provide the same critical treatment to Australians in need.”
About Australian Association of Psychologists Inc (AAPi):
The AAPi is a not-for-profit peak body for psychologists that aims to preserve the rich diversity of psychological practice in Australia. Formed in 2010 by a group of passionate grassroots psychologists, the AAPi’s primary goal is to address inequality in the profession and represent all psychologists and their clients equally to government and funding bodies. Its primary mission is to lobby for equitable access for the Australian public to professional psychological services funded under the current Medicare Better Access Scheme.
About Tegan Carrison, Executive Director, AAPi:
Tegan has spent over 15 years in public health promotion and is passionate about advocating for the rights of health care professionals and improving access for the community. After studying Nutrition and Health Promotion at Deakin University, Tegan went on to become an experienced clinical educator, supervisor, and mentor, including starting a student-led interprofessional clinic with the University of Queensland's not-for-profit UQ Health Care. Tegan also brings a wealth of experience in business management, administration and human resource management. She is passionate and dedicated to improving access to mental health services and creating the leading members association for psychologists in Australia.