Want to end the two tier system and improve mental health care in Australia?

Posted on 4 March 2021
By Tegan Carrison, Executive Director, AAPi

We need your help to make 2021, the year we finally end the two tier system and make many other positive changes to mental health care in Australia.

Quick Facts

  • We are asking all members to write to the Select Committee into Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
  • A short, personal account of what you feel needs to be changed to improve the mental health care system- no need for a thesis
  • We have summarised some key issues below as a guide
  • Submissions are due 24 March 2021
  • Please submit online here

AAPi has been invited to make a submission to the Select Committee into Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (Select Committee). Individuals and organisations are also encouraged to make submissions. This is very important as the Select Committee is reviewing many of the recent and important reviews including but not limited to:

  • Productivity Commission Inquiry Report into Mental Health
  • The Report of the National Suicide Prevention Officer
  • Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health
  • National Mental Health Workforce Strategy
  • Mental Health Reference Group and MBS Review

The Select Committee will review other matters not addressed by recent reviews, including funding arrangements through the MBS and other sources as well as telehealth services. This is a very important opportunity for members to have their say on the future of mental health and we encourage every member to make a submission. 

In the past when submissions were required, members have asked for templates to assist them to formulate their response. While this may make the process easier, it often means that your individual opinion is drowned out and your submission may not have the desired impact. 

What committees like this really need to hear is your own opinion and how you and your clients are affected by the current mental health system and what you would like changed. It doesn’t need to be a thesis or overly technical, personal accounts or short submissions are still powerful and important.

Consider the impact if every single psychologist currently only able to provide their clients with the lower MBS rebate, voicing their concerns for how this limits access to mental health care and disadvantages those most in need of care and support. Your voice matters.

While we will not be providing a template, we have outlined below AAPi's key advocacy items that we will include in our submission to assist members in deciding what to include in their submissions.

AAPi Key Advocacy Items:

  • One-tier Medicare rebate for the clients of all registered psychologists in Australia
  • Raise the Medicare rebate to $150 per session to allow for greater access, to facilitate more bulk billing, and to enable appropriate treatment rather than an inadequate psychological health care response
  • Cease discrimination of psychologists without clinical endorsement in areas including but not limited to employment opportunities, scope of practice and funding
  • Include Medicare rebated assessments funded at a sufficient level
  • Prioritise key prevention and early intervention settings such as schools and workplaces
  • Permanent universal telehealth
  • Implementing the Productivity Commission recommendation for up to 40 MBS rebated sessions per annum
  • Over reliance on medication 
  • Simplify the process of accessing a psychologist. This includes simplifying referrals, reviews, letters back to referrers, and upgrading the MBS to reduce the burden on psychologists. Psychologists should also not be held financially accountable for referral errors by medical practitioners
  • Broaden MBS rebatable sessions to psychologists to incorporate vital prevention and early intervention strategies in addition to responding to mental illness as well as couples counselling and family therapy
  • Re-instatement of self-referral processes integral for client’s sense of autonomy, important for psychological recovery, to increase access to psychological services. In this model, the psychologist is once again, as had been in earlier times, relied upon to liaise and communicate with the client’s treating medical practitioner/s as appropriate and as per the privacy and informed consent legislations
  • Fund a dedicated preventative/early intervention psychology workforce
  • Establish a ‘Provisional Psychologist’ Medicare rebate to boost the psychology workforce, increase access to mental health and provide reliable income for both employers and early career psychologists
  • Incentives for rural and remote psychologists- similar to GP's
  • Expand the evidence-based approaches able to be used by psychologists to allow the clinician to use any technique that has adequate Level I, Level II or in some specific conditions Level III evidence. Psychologists are trained in evaluating the evidence base for the use of therapeutic techniques and need to have the freedom to choose the best approach for each client independently rather than have restrictions on their treatment
  • Review the increasing trend toward mental health “hubs”.  These hubs while attractive to Government, require a lot of funding to establish and maintain, generally have high turnover due to low financial renumeration for providers due to their reliance on bulk billed Medicare rebates for practitioners and often do not facilitate access to mental health services to those with disabilities, transport issues, or reside a distance away from the facility.  Adequately funding the Medicare system to allow clients to choose a mental health clinician in their local area is the most cost effective and easily implemented strategy

This is your opportunity to have your voice and opinions heard. The Select Committee will issue their interim report before 15 April 2021 and their final report before 1 November 2021. Please do not miss this opportunity.

If you have any recommendations for AAPi's submission, please let us know via emailing admin@aapi.org.au

Submissions should be submitted to the Select Committee by 24 March. It is preferred that submissions are uploaded electronically, through: www.aph.gov.au/Committee/Submissions

Further information about the inquiry is available at: www.aph.gov.au/mhsp.  

For detailed information on preparing a submission, including information about parliamentary privilege and requests for confidentiality, please go to: www.aph.gov.au/MakeSubmission.   

If you require any other information, please contact the secretariat on (02) 6277 4633 or mhsp.reps@aph.gov.au.  

 

We are stronger together, we can make a difference.

Warmest Regards,

Tegan Carrison

Executive Director

AAPi