ARCAP raises concerns over MBS-funded services and the COVID-19 pandemic response with Minister for Health

Earlier this month, PACFA and the ACA wrote to Minister Hunt in our joint capacity as the Australian Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (ARCAP) to raise our concerns regarding media coverage of recommendations to increase access to health coaches for the delivery of low-intensity mental health supports.

The recommendations, which appeared in The Age on Sunday 9th August, were attributed to several influential organisations including Beyond Blue, the Australian Psychological Society and Black Dog Institute.The article proposes MBS-funded access to health coaches, citing an urgent need to address the exponential rise in demand for mental health services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ARCAP’s correspondence to Minister Hunt noted that the recommendation to engage health coaches for the delivery of Medicare-rebated low- intensity services fails to recognise the highly skilled and trained workforce of Counsellors and Psychotherapists, who stand ready to deliver a range of mental health services immediately.

ARCAP also noted that low intensity services are only a partial response to meeting mental health needs concerned that mental health coaches are not appropriate as a crisis response; COVID-19 has resulted in an alarming rise in presentations of much more serious mental health issues including self-harm, issues which require a clinical response.

ARCAP encouraged Minister Hunt once more to support Australians’ mental health and wellbeing by prioritising the inclusion of Counsellors and Psychotherapists as service providers in the ongoing national mental health response to COVID-19 and in the provision of Medicare-funded services. We are awaiting a reply from the Minister.

PACFA wrote separately to Beyond Blue Chief Executive Officer Georgie Harman, who responded to our concerns by assuring us that Beyond Blue values the role of Counsellors and Psychotherapists in the mental health workforce.  Ms. Harman also noted that Beyond Blue cannot guarantee accurate media reporting of their advocacy and confirmed that Beyond Blue’s low-intensity program, NewAccess, is not intended to be a ‘crisis response’ response service or to replace MBS-funded services..

To read ARCAP’s letter to Minister Hunt in full, click here.