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PACFA submission to the Senate Inquiry into Commonwealth Funding and Administration of Mental Health Services

PACFA is an advocate for appropriate, accessible health services to meet the biopsychosocial needs of clients, their carers and families. Counselling and psychotherapy focus on the prevention of mental illness, as well as treatment of symptoms of mental disorders, and actively promote wellbeing and healthy living.

This submission addresses the Terms of Reference of the Senate Inquiry into Commonwealth funding and administration of mental health services. Input into the submission was provided by our Member Associations, therefore it has drawn on diverse locations, disciplines and experiences around Australia.

As a peak body for the counselling and psychotherapy profession, PACFA has focused on the following key issues on which it has expertise:

1. Changes to the Better Access initiative, in particular the rationalisation of the number of allied health treatment sessions available under the Better Access initiative and the impact of this change for patients with mild or moderate mental illness – Terms of Reference point (b).

2. The impact and adequacy of services provided to people with mental illness through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) program – Terms of Reference Point (c).

3. Services available for people with severe mental illness and the coordination of those services – Terms of Reference Point (d).

4. Mental health workforce issues, in particular workforce qualifications and training of psychologists (and counsellors and psychotherapists) and workforce shortages – Terms of Reference Point (e).

Recommendations

Arising from this submission, PACFA makes the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1
The maximum number of allied health treatment sessions under the Better Access initiative should be changed back to 12 sessions and the additional funding required allocated accordingly. Access to a maximum of 18 sessions in exceptional circumstances should be continued.

Recommendation 2
The Department of Health and Ageing should undertake research into the number of treatment sessions required for effective outcomes for the range of patients and presentations served by the Better Access initiative. Research should inform government policy on the number of allied health treatment sessions available to patients through the Better Access initiative.

Recommendation 3
The Department of Health and Ageing should develop fact sheets for Access to Allied Psychological Strategies consumers that report on the strengths and limitations of the approved psychological strategies to maximise informed choice for consumers.
PACFA Submission to Senate Community Affairs Committee 3

Recommendation 4
Practitioners providing psychological strategies through the Access to Allied Psychological Strategies program should be required to match the strategy with the presenting problems of clients, their characteristics and treatment preferences.

Recommendation 5
The range of approved psychological strategies in the Access to Allied Psychological Strategies program should be expanded to include other psychotherapy and counselling models with strong evidence bases as appropriate for client presentations, particularly substance abuse, and treatment preferences.

Recommendation 6
PACFA registered Mental Health Practitioners should be included as service providers in the Access to Allied Psychological Services program. These practitioners are appropriately qualified to provide psychological strategies.

Recommendation 7
Strategies for reducing the stigma associated with being diagnosed with a severe mental illness should be developed and implemented by the Department of health and Ageing.

Recommendation 8
PACFA Registered counsellors and psychotherapists should be included as providers of non-clinical services for severely mentally ill patients receiving Flexible Care Packages.

Recommendation 9
PACFA registered Mental Health Practitioners should be included as service providers in the Better Access initiative. These practitioners are appropriately qualified to provide Focused Psychological Strategies.

Click here to download a copy of the Submission