The Better Access to Mental Health Care Initiative forms part of the CoAG National Action Plan on Mental Health. An original commitment of $538 million was given to provide better access to psychiatrists, psychologists and general practitioners through Medicare so that mental disorders could be addressed more effectively and new assistance provided to people with mental disorders and their families.
The Better Access to Mental Health Care Initiative will allow increased community access to mental health professionals and team-based mental health care, with general practitioners encouraged to work more closely and collaboratively with psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and other allied mental health professionals.
- Encourage more GPs to participate in early intervention, assessment and management of patients with mental disorders and streamline access to appropriate psychological interventions in primary care;
- Encourage private psychiatrists to see more new patients;
- Provide referral pathways for appropriate treatment of patients with mental disorders, including by psychiatrists, GPs, clinical psychologists and other allied mental health professionals; and
- Support primary care and specialist mental health workforce with education and training to better diagnose and treat mental illness.
As part of the Better Access to Mental Health Care Initiative psychiatrists, paediatricians and GPs can refer patients for intensive, short-term Medicare-subsidised mental health services. Depending on their needs, patients are eligible for up to 12 (18 in exceptional circumstances) individual and/or group allied mental health services per calendar year.
As part of a structured framework, GPs will complete a GP Mental Health Care Plan for eligible patients, which will then allow access to a range of medicare-rebateable allied health services. The allied mental health services under this initiative include psychological assessment and therapy provided by eligible clinical psychologists, and focussed psychological strategies provided by eligible psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists. This initiative will allow psychiatrists and paediatricians to directly refer patients with mental disorders to clinical psychologists and other allied mental health professionals for Medicare-rebatable services for the first time. It will also promote greater interaction between medical practitioners and allied mental health professionals, with GPs having greater scope to shape and direct the treatment of mental disorders through the new GP Mental Health MBS items.
Further information on the new item numbers, including item descriptors and rebates, can be found in the resources below. AGPN and the Australian Psychological Society (APS) have developed a very useful orientation manual for each of the professions – and these too can be accessed below.
In April 2008, the government released a document detailing the utilisation data for the new Better Access to Mental Health Care Initiative item numbers. GPQ undertook to provide a couple of useful summaries of this data.
- Better Access Utilisation Data – Summary
- Better Access Utilisation Data – Observations of each item number
- 2009 / 2010 MBS Mental Health Care Item Claiming Rates for divisions of general practice
- Better Access to Mental Health Care Initiative Resources
- AGPN Primary Mental Health Care
- Australian Psychological Society
- Australian Government Mental Health
- RACGP – Mental Health
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