Psychologists welcome restoration of services under Medicare

The restoration of mental health services under Medicare will meet the desperate need of many vulnerable Australians, according to the Australian Psychological Society, which has campaigned for the reversal of cuts to the Better Access initiative since they were announced in May 2011.

Professor Lyn Littlefield, Executive Director of the APS, welcomed the Government’s announcement today that it will, from March 1, allow an extra six sessions of Medicare-subsidised mental health services as an interim measure to treat those people with exceptional needs.

Professor Littlefield said: “The news of the reinstatement of the extra six sessions under Better Access shows the Government listened to vulnerable Australians in need of extra psychological services. Psychologists have been gravely concerned about the number of Australians with mental health disorders who have been left without treatment as a result of cuts to the services they can claim under Medicare. Mental health is as crucial as physical health, and leaving those in need in significant distress without treatment costs families, communities and the Government dearly.”

The APS proposed an alternative compromise arrangement of an additional six sessions for those requiring extra treatment on top of the reduced 10 sessions as part of a submission to Government in December. The proposal allows the Government to still make a substantial saving, while protecting the estimated 87,000 Australians per year who have been left without appropriate care as a result of the cuts.

The reinstatement of sessions will last until December, which the Government says will enable sufficient time for alternative mental health services to build capacity. Professor Littlefield said it was essential that the decision was reviewed, before it expires in December, to ensure that capacity had been successfully built elsewhere in the mental health system.

She said: “The Better Access to Mental Health Care program is the most successful mental health initiative of the past 30 years. The overwhelming demand that has resulted from the availability of Medicare rebates shows the depth of previously unmet need.  With independent evaluation showing how cost and clinically effective this is, this program must remain a central feature of mental health care if we are to counteract the growing burden that mental illness is on the community.”

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Notes to editors: For more information on the changes to the services available under Medicare, contact the APS Media team on 0435 896 444 or at by email at Alternatively call Judith Heywood on 03 8662 3301, Rebecca Matthews on 03 8662 3358 or Karen Coghlan on 03 8662 6638.

APS media releases and updates on the topic are available here

The Government release announcing the changes

The APS is the largest professional association for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 20,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to peoples’ lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing.