Mental Health Reference Group Report– Recognition opportunity

In 2018, PACFA submitted to a major review of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). PACFA President, Dr Di Stow, was invited by Health Minister Greg Hunt to participate in the Mental Health Reference Group which was established to focus on changes required to Medicare-funded mental health services, including the Better Access Initiative (BAI).

The MHRG has now released its report which includes recommendations that represent an opportunity for PACFA to advocate for counsellors and psychotherapists to be Medicare providers. Download MHRG Report.

A key recommendation in the report is the proposal to expand access to counselling via BAI to at-risk patients including people with no previous history of mental illness or those who are currently symptom free but require relapse prevention. The resulting growth in demand for services suggests an expansion of the workforce would be essential – creating an opportunity for counsellors and psychotherapists to be part of the Medicare workforce.

Through our ARCAP partnership, the Australian Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists, PACFA will submit a response to the report, highlighting the suitability of counsellors and psychotherapists to provide psychological interventions for Medicare.

The MHRG Report notes that “Other mental health professionals such as counsellors and psychotherapists registered under the Australian Register of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (ARCAP) do not have MBS Better Access items”. However, the MHRG was not able to resolve the debate about which professionals should be able to provide the various services under BAI.

Importantly, PACFA will seek to participate in the Working Group recommended to review access to, and rebates for, Better Access sessions delivered by different professional groups. This is PACFA’s best opportunity to date to advocate for counsellors and psychotherapists to be Medicare providers.

Other important recommendations which are supported by PACFA and which would benefit consumers are the recommendations to:

  • no longer require a diagnosis of a mental disorder in order to have a GP mental health plan to access counselling
  • increase the number of counselling sessions available under BAI
  • update the treatment options available to include a wider range of evidence-based interventions
  • enable family members and carers to access counselling via BAI