PACFA submission on review of mental health services

PACFA’s submission to the National Mental Health Commission on the review of mental health services in which it makes recommendations to address shortcomings in the Better Access Initiative (BAI) and the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) programs and identifies alternative models of mental health service delivery.

PACFA submits that the BAI requires serious rethinking as the program has grown exponentially and program expenditure has become unsustainable. There are serious problems with the program design, targeting and implementation, including over-servicing of consumers with mild to moderate mental disorders with specialist psychological treatment and Medicare payments to GPs for Mental Health Plans which are not necessary or appropriate for all consumers and are not a cost-effective model of service delivery.

The range of interventions available under both the BAI and ATAPS programs is not adequate to meet consumer needs and is not well informed by research evidence. Client outcomes could be improved by including a range of other evidence-based counselling and psychotherapy treatment models. The BAI also requires better processes for routine data collection and program evaluation in order to improve transparency and accountability for program expenditure and outcomes.

PACFA has contributed to the development of an alternative model of service delivery for Primary Care Counselling which is presented in this submission. This model would require government to rethink the way mental health services are delivered but has the potential to deliver:

Savings of approximately $100,000,000 (detailed in Appendix 1);

  • Capacity for 20% growth in service delivery above current service levels;
  • More accessible and affordable services for consumers; and
  • A wider range of counselling interventions to meet consumer needs.

Although more people are accessing mental health services since the introduction of the BAI and ATAPS programs, workforce shortages have resulted in waiting lists in some areas, particularly in rural, regional and remote Australia. Counsellors and psychotherapists are an overlooked part of the mental health workforce. Current and projected mental health workforce shortages could be addressed by recognising the contribution that counsellors and psychotherapists can make and including them as service providers in a range of mental health programs.

Download PACFA submission