Better Access funding must be assured for mental health consumers

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) congratulates the Federal Minister for Health on his announcement that 150 mental health programs will continue to receive funding for the 2014-15 financial year. In the lead-up to the Federal Budget, the APS is seeking a similar assurance for ongoing funding of the highly successful Better Access initiative.

The Better Access initiative enables psychological treatment of mental health disorders under Australia’s Medicare system, and has provided demonstrably effective, cost-efficient and accessible psychological services for millions of Australians with common mental health disorders.

The APS Executive Director, Professor Lyn Littlefield, stressed that the hard-won achievements of seven years of the Better Access initiative need to be protected and built on.

“The availability of psychological treatment through Australia’s Medicare scheme has significantly increased the treatment rates of people with mental health disorders from 37% to 46%, but there are still many people not receiving services. Better Access has clearly facilitated significant destigmatisation of help-seeking for mental health problems and this has been a huge advance for Australians’ mental health,” she said.

“We recognise the constrained economic environment and the desire of the Abbott Government to review spending in the upcoming Budget”, said Professor Littlefield. “However, it is critical that people with common mental health disorders can continue to access effective psychological treatment. The Government must honour its commitment to maintain frontline mental health services, of which Better Access is a shining example,” she said.

“Treatment needs to be of the appropriate length to ensure efficacy, and the number of psychologist service providers must be maintained so that consumers can have timely access to treatment,” said Professor Littlefield.

“Both consumers receiving psychological treatment and the psychologist providers need the assurance that funding for this vital mental health program will be maintained in the upcoming Federal Budget,” Professor Littlefield said.

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For more information, or to arrange an interview, call the APS media phone on 0435 896 444, or email Find us on Twitter:  @APS_Media.

The APS is the largest professional organisation for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 21,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to people’s lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing.