PACFA at Mental Health Equity and Access Forum

01 February 2023

CEO Johanna de Wever represented members at the Federal Government’s Mental Health and Equity and Access Forum on 30 January in Canberra and was buoyed by Health Minister Mark Butler’s support for broadening access to Medicare rebates, with appropriate safety and quality assurance.

With our high training standards for membership, our full membership of Allied Health Professions Australia and now, qualifying membership of the National Alliance of Self-Regulating Health Professions, PACFA is assuring governments, employers and the community that our members deliver safe, high quality mental health services.

At the forum, Ms de Wever spoke with sector leaders, including Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health, Dr Ruth Vine; employers and consumers. It was a positive day of discussion, involving about 80 stakeholders representing the mental health sector.

PACFA applauded the post-forum announcement by Minister Butler and Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Emma McBride, of plans for 2 new lived experience peak bodies which will amplify the voices of people who have experienced mental ill health, and their families, carers and kin.

The forum followed the release of the report on the University of Melbourne’s independent evaluation of the Medicare Better Access initiative in December 2022. The review found that in 2021, 5% of Australians received Medicare-subsidised psychological support but 21% of Australians experienced a mental health disorder. Medicare’s Better Access initiative was most utilised by people on higher incomes living in major cities, rather than by those on lower incomes and regional/rural communities, who have poorer mental health overall.

PACFA welcomed the review report as the first step towards the sector reform needed to open up greater access to mental health support from counsellors and psychotherapists, who are more prevalent in regional and rural areas than psychologists and psychiatrists.

The Strengthening Medicare Taskforce report is expected to be released on Friday 3 February 2023.