ARCAP Productivity Commission submission

Under the banner of ARCAP, the Australia Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists, PACFA has made a joint submission with the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into mental health in Australia. Details of the inquiry can be found here.

The Productivity Commission Inquiry represents an important opportunity to significantly re-shape mental health services in Australia PACFA has actively engaged in various consultation opportunities and has provided advice to the Commission on the contribution that counsellors and psychotherapists make to mental health and wellbeing.

ARCAP’s submission focuses on the utilisation of registered counsellors and psychotherapists and how increased utilisation will strengthen the mental health system and improve overall productivity through the delivery of cost-effective, safe, and high-quality services.

Incorporating registered counsellors and psychotherapists into the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) through the Better Access Initiative is a theme that is interwoven throughout the submission. This proposal is supported by arguments around improving quality of services, addressing workforce shortages and client waiting times, and reducing overall Australian mental expenditure whilst improving overall productivity.

The ARCAP submission demonstrates how registered counsellors and psychotherapists would fit into the stepped model of care to provide cost-effective, high-quality, services under Better Access and other Commonwealth funded mental health services that support clients through Local Hospital Networks and Primary Health Networks (PHNs).

One of the key angles in the submission was how commissioning bodies such as PHNs can incorporate registered counsellors and psychotherapists into their services. There is an illustration provided showing how our workforce could alleviate waiting times in a key PHNs in NSW.

The ARCAP submission also addresses thee needs of specific groups in the community who are particularly vulnerable to mental ill health such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people residing in remote areas, individuals with very low socioeconomic backgrounds, homeless people, and newly arrived migrants and refugees. These groups in the community are under-serviced by current mental health services and would be better served by improving access to registered counsellors and psychotherapists.

The ARCAP submission was structured into three sections, the first covers the key themes that are woven throughout the submission: the social determinants of health; early intervention and prevention and the need for a bolstered workforce; stepped model of care; potentially preventable hospitalisations; consumer access and choice; maximising value and return on investment; and specific groups in the community.

The second section addresses some of the questions in the Productivity Commission’s Issues Paper that are relevant to the counselling and psychotherapy profession around healthcare reforms, social participation and inclusion, mentally healthy workplaces, funding arrangements, and reporting client outcomes.

The third and final section discusses the barriers to achieving social and economic participation and contribution from a counselling and psychotherapy perspective. This cover the fact that counselling and psychotherapy do not receive GST exemption; the serious limitations of the Better Access program; and the fact that the role private health insurers addressing mental ill health is too limited.

Download the ARCAP submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry.