The APS was involved in the largest ever mental health delegation to Federal Parliament this week, meeting with more than 40 Members of Parliament and Senators, including Ministers and Shadow Ministers. The Mental Health Advocacy Day was organised by Mental Health Australia (MHA) of which the APS is a prominent member organisation and Lyn Littlefield is its Deputy Chair.
The delegation met with more than 40 parliamentarians across the political spectrum, advocating for strong policy commitment to mental health. In particular, the delegation called for the release of the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Services, followed by consultation with the mental health sector about improvements to the mental health system. The delegation also advocated for a cross party commitment to a 10-year reform plan for mental health, as well as funding certainty for Australians using community-based services.
The day-long series of meetings was well-received by politicians, who were very interested in the issues raised around mental health.
A number of members have rung with enquiries about the requirements under Medicare for managing clients on GP Mental Health Treatment Plans across the new calendar year. Some members are also receiving queries from referring GPs about whether the GP needs to prepare a new Mental Health Treatment Plan or provide a new referral when an existing client is going to continue to receive psychological services in 2015.
The requirements for Treatment Plans and referrals have not changed this year but there is often confusion amongst GPs and psychologists about how to interpret the requirements of the relevant Medicare item numbers.
Once an initial GP Mental Health Treatment Plan is in place, a new Plan should not be prepared unless clinically required and generally not within 12 months of a previous Plan. The GP can provide ongoing management through the GP Mental Health Treatment Consultation and Standard Consultation items, as required, and reviews of progress through the GP Mental Health Treatment Plan Review item. At these GP appointments, the GP can provide the client with a new referral for psychological services if the GP considers that the client requires additional psychological services (up to the calendar year entitlement of 10 sessions).
In summary, clients who were being managed by their GP under a Treatment Plan in 2014 who need to access further referred services during 2015 do not need to have a new Treatment Plan prepared unless required by the client’s clinical condition, needs or circumstances. There is also no need for a new referral unless the client has already received the number of sessions that was stipulated on the 2014 referral. If a client enters 2015 having used up all previously referred services, then the GP can provide a new referral if they consider that the client requires additional psychological services (up to the calendar year entitlement of 10 sessions).
It is important to note, that once the Treatment Plan is in place, the GP can use the referral process to access continued psychological services for the client (up to the calendar year maximum)– similar to a referral to any specialist.
Extreme and distressing events like the recent siege in Sydney are powerful and upsetting incidents that intrude into daily life. Many people can have strong emotional or physical reactions following experience of a traumatic event. For most, these reactions subside over a few days or weeks. For some, the symptoms may last longer and be more severe. Even following these events from a distance on the media can be distressing. Below are some helpful resources for looking after yourself after a crisis, and for helping children to deal with frightening events.
The Department of Human Services has advised that the renewal process for the eHealth National Authentication Service for Health (NASH) Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificate has recently changed.
The NASH PKI certificate enables subscribers to authenticate to the eHealth Record system and send and receive secure messages between you/your organisation and other healthcare provider organisations. The certificate allows encryption and digital signing of electronic transmissions. If the certificate expires, this functionality will no longer operate.
From December 2014, Subscribers are no longer required to complete a renewal form to replace expiring NASH PKI Certificates. Subscribers will automatically receive a renewed NASH PKI Certificate in the mail up to three months prior to the expiry date of the current NASH PKI Certificate.
Subscribers need to make sure their preferred address details are up to date on the Healthcare Identifiers Service record. Healthcare professionals can do this by using Health Professional Online Services (HPOS) at humanservices.gov.au/hpos. Other subscribers can update their details through the usual method, either by phone or email.
To understand more information about the NASH and PKI Certificates under the eHealth Record system, click here.
6 November 2014
In Victoria certain provisions in the Crimes Amendment (Protection of Children) Act 2014, (the amending Act) have now been formally incorporated into the Crimes Act 1958 (the principal Act) and became operational on 27 October 2014. These changes will impact on any adult in Victoria with regard to their obligation to report child sexual abuse. A maximum penalty of three years imprisonment may apply for failure to comply with the new laws.
The legislation is complex and provides a number of exceptions to the requirement to report which may be relevant to psychologists, including:
The APS recommends that psychologists working with young people – particularly under the age of 16 - familiarise themselves with the more detailed implications of the legislation as outlined here, and where necessary seek legal advice.
The Federal Government has recently announced that psychologists who provide Medicare Focused Psychological Strategies (FPS) items are no longer required to undertake 10 hours of FPS-related continuing professional development (CPD) in order to maintain their Medicare Provider status. This change is operative from 1 November 2014.
The rationale for the change is that psychologists are already required to undertake CPD as part of their registration requirements with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA).
The APS recommends that psychologists providing FPS Medicare items continue to include CPD relevant to providing these Medicare items in their annual CPD learning plans and CPD activities for PsyBA requirements.
Following his term as President-Elect, Professor Mike Kyrios FAPS assumed the office of President of the APS at the conclusion of the 2014 APS AGM on 2 October 2014 for a term of two years.
An election for two General Director positions on the APS Board of Directors was held by postal and electronic ballot, and the result was declared at the 2014 AGM.
The two successful candidates are Mr Anthony Cichello MAPS and Ms Mary Magalotti MAPS, both of whom will serve a term of three years as a General Director on the Board.
We congratulate each of these members of the APS on their appointments to the APS Board and look forward to their contribution to the APS over the coming years.
We also thank retiring APS President Associate Professor Tim Hannan FAPS, General Directors Professor Erica Frydenberg FAPS and Professor Debra Rickwood FAPS, and Appointed Director Ms Anne Lipzker MAPS for their valuable contributions to the APS through their service on the APS Board.
The full composition of the APS Board of Directors and brief profiles of the Directors can be found here.
Posted 23 July 2014
The tragic shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, and the death of all passengers on board, has shocked and saddened people and nations around the world. Many Australians will be directly affected by the tragedy through their relationships with those who died as family, friends or colleagues.
Many other Australians will also be affected by this sad news and the constant news coverage of the crash site and recovery efforts which can also be upsetting. It is natural to experience grief when a tragic event like this occurs and its impacts are felt by those who have lost loved ones as well as by the wider community exposed to the tragedy via the news reports.
Parents, children, families, and close friends of the people who have died will value the support of their own friends and family as they go through the many painful feelings that are a part of grief.
When faced with tragedy, people have a need to make some sense of what has happened. Rightly or wrongly, people often search for someone to blame as part of the sense-making. This is complicated with the added dimension of direct human involvement in the cause of the disaster, and the extensive political and media speculation
You can care for people affected as they begin to deal with their grief and loss by:
Children also need support and care. Many children will have been exposed to the event through the news, or by overhearing adult conversations, or from school. Some children are more directly involved because they were friends with children who died, or have lost family members.
It is important to:
We can all feel a sense of shock when events like this occur that can undermine our feelings of security and safety in the world and sometimes lead to feelings of hopelessness or anger.
You can protect yourself by:
Posted 1 July 2014
On 1 July 2014, a number of changes associated with the Health Ombudsman Act 2013 came into effect, with implications for registered psychologists in Queensland as follows.
The APS will provide members with further advice about these matters when it becomes available.
Posted 1 July 2014
The Australian Government’s Stronger Relationships trial commenced on 1 July 2014, providing eligible couples with $200 towards education and counselling services, including pre-marriage or marriage counselling, parenting education, conflict resolution and financial management. Eligible couples must be in a committed married, defacto or same-sex relationship and be 18 years of age. The Government is now seeking applications from service providers working in this area, including psychologists, to be part of the Stronger Relationships Panel to deliver services under this scheme. To be eligible to be on the panel psychologists must be existing providers under the Family Support Program or be a not-for-profit organisation providing education and/or counselling to at least 100 couples per year. The Stronger Relationships trial will end on 30 June 2015 or when the cap of 100,000 couples is reached, whichever comes sooner.
The 2014 Federal Budget was brought down on 13 May 2014. The APS has analysed the Budget measures of relevance to the discipline and profession of psychology, and the members of the community who are most frequently the clients of psychologists.
The Department of Social Services (DSS) has conducted a consultation process to investigate the impact of the publication of the revised DSM-5 on the Government initiatives Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) and Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start). Up until this time, to be eligible for these programs, children have required a DSM-IV diagnosis. With the introduction of DSM-5 the Australian Government has revised the eligibility criteria to account for changes to the relevant diagnoses. The eligibility criteria as of 1 February 2014 will take account of both DSM-IV and DSM-5 diagnoses, with the eligible conditions being:
Rett’s disorder, which was previously included in the disorders eligible for HCWA funding and was a diagnosis in DSM-IV, has been removed from DSM-5 as it is now accepted that it is a neurological disorder. However, the DSS has determined that Rett’s disorder will continue to be an eligible disorder but will now be treated under the Better Start initiative rather than HCWA.
The new diagnosis of social communication disorder is not currently included in these initiatives but will be reviewed by DSS in 12 months when more information about the diagnosis is likely to be available.
For more information about the HCWA and Better Start funding changes, refer to the fact sheet (below) or visit the DSS website at www.dss.gov.au/autism
Further to the advice provided to members in December 2013, the APS has successfully negotiated a change to the Medicare Locals Accreditation Standards to ensure that ATAPS providers do not have to register to undertake external accreditation. A document with the detailed revisions can be accessed below:
Many ATAPS providers have received letters from their Medicare Locals informing them that as a consequence of the implementation of the Medicare Local Accreditation Standards they will need to be accredited against the National Standards for Mental Health Services (NMHSS) by an external accreditation agency by the end of 2014.
The APS has significant concerns about this approach and many members have been in touch. The costs to providers of this approach are significant and use of the NMHSS as an accreditation tool by itself is questionable. The APS has been liaising with the other professions involved in delivering ATAPS and the Department of Health to find a more effective approach to reduce the impost upon ATAPS providers. Members will be kept informed of progress in relation to this matter, and are advised not to proceed with accreditation until the outcomes of discussions with the Department are finalised.
The APS and the Psychology Board of Australia have reached an ‘in-principle’ agreement that will enable the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) to be re-appointed as the accrediting body for psychology to the end of June 2018. This agreement will enable APAC to continue to undertake accreditation of the undergraduate and postgraduate psychology courses of Australian universities and higher education providers, and recognises APAC’s successful track record as the national accrediting authority for psychology.
An election for the President-Elect and two General Director positions on the APS Board of Directors was held by postal and electronic ballot, and the result was declared at the APS AGM on 10 October 2013.
The successful candidate for the President-Elect is Professor Mike Kyrios FAPS. Following a 12-month term as President-Elect, Mike will assume the office of President of the APS from the AGM in 2014 for a term of two years.
As Mike is currently a Director on the APS Board, with one year remaining of the three-year term for which he was originally elected, his election to President-Elect produced a third vacancy for a General Director on the Board. Therefore three successful candidates have been newly elected to General Director positions on the Board and they are Professor Tim Carey MAPS, Dr Nick Reynolds FAPS and Professor Debra Rickwood FAPS. Tim Carey and Nick Reynolds will each serve a three-year term and Debra Rickwood’s term is for one year (to fill the vacancy caused by Mike Kyrios’ election to President-Elect).
We congratulate each of these members of the APS on their election and look forward to their contribution to the APS Board over the coming years.
The full composition of the APS Board of Directors and brief profiles of the Directors can be found here.
26 September 2013
Members' attention is drawn to a recent offer to be included in the Australasian Health Professionals Directory, which was directed towards GPs and is now targeting psychologists. The offer is for “basic data published free of charge” in the directory but the fine print states that the listing will be for a minimum of 3 years, at $1,300 per year if not cancelled within 3 months of the current contract period.
There is other concerning material:
Advice to members
The APS advises members who receive this offer to ignore it. Members who have already signed up to the directory should immediately send a follow-up communication rescinding your participation. Do not make any payment or provide credit card details. The more information that is given, the greater your exposure to risk.
If you are being contacted by AUAHP or a related entity seeking further information, such as credit card details, or payment of any kind, do not pay or provide those details. Contact the Office of Fair Trading in your State or Territory.
It is unlikely that any Australian court would uphold the legitimacy of these agreements. Nevertheless, it is best not to get involved in the first place. As always, members should be very cautious about signing up to agreements that are from unknown, unsolicited or untrusted sources, from Australia and overseas. Often a basic enquiry will reveal sufficient detail to assist you to make an informed choice. If in doubt, contact the Office of Fair Trading in your State or Territory, or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The APS acknowledges the assistance of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) regarding this matter.
In the lead-up to the Federal election, the APS prepared a number of costed initiatives that were sent to the major political parties for a response. The initiatives span 10 areas where there are real opportunities to bring significant benefits to the Australian community by increasing access to effective psychological care and knowledge. The APS 2013 election document can be accessed here. Two of the three parties have responded to the APS election proposals, as below.
The Greens’ mental health election platform includes the reinstatement of the exceptional circumstances sessions under the Better Access initiative that were lost in recent funding cuts. The Greens’ costed policy to reinstate the additional sessions of psychological treatment under refined criteria is based on the proposal presented by the APS. The Greens responded to the APS by providing their mental health and rural mental health policies.
Australian Labor Party
The Labor Party has responded in writing to the APS 10-point key issues election document. The ALP response can be accessed here.
The Liberal Party
The Liberal Party has not, as yet, responded to the APS election proposals.
According to a media release by the Australian Labor Party (“Frontline Health Workers on Abbott’s Chopping Block”, August 18), should the Coalition win government, there will be serious cuts to this primary care frontline workforce in all States. Given the potential for such cuts to seriously impact on community wellbeing, the APS wrote to all three major parties, seeking assurance that they will not support cuts to the funding of this primary care workforce. It was indicated in the letters that APS members would be provided with feedback on the response of each party. Medicare Locals provide a vital point of access to psychological services for many community members, especially people who are financially disadvantaged and those living in rural areas. Medicare Locals across Australia also deliver an extensive range of primary care services to people with chronic illness.
The APS has now received responses from the three major parties. The Australian Labor Party stated they “will not cut frontline health services”. The Greens have responded and indicated that their plans for mental health and rural mental health include considerable expansion of the frontline psychology workforce, as outlined in their mental health and rural mental health policies. The Coalition has stated that it ”will not be cutting health funding or closing Medicare Locals” (the response can be read here).
The APS has prepared a number of costed initiatives that have been presented to Federal politicians from the major political parties in the context of the Federal election. The initiatives span 10 areas where there are real opportunities to bring significant benefits to the Australian community by increasing access to effective psychological care and knowledge.
The Australian Government today announced a deferral of the introduction of the $2,000 cap on tax deductions for work-related education expenses until 1 July 2015. The rationale provided for this decision was to allow for further consultation on how best to target excessive claims while ensuring the impact on university enrolments and genuine continuing professional development is minimised.
This announcement is a significant achievement and reflects the strong advocacy from professional associations, including the APS, representing members who will be affected by the cap. APS advocacy for the removal or significant modification of the $2,000 cap will continue in order to inform the Government’s consultation.
New regulations were introduced with national registration in 2010 prohibiting the use of testimonials when advertising psychological services. A reference to this requirement has now been included in the APS Code of Ethics. The APS Code of Ethics has allowed the use of testimonials in some circumstances, but the law governing the national registration scheme supersedes the Code of Ethics and the national regulation therefore takes precedence.
The Psychology Board of Australia’s Guidelines for advertising of regulated health services states that ‘a person must not advertise a regulated health service, or a business that provides a regulated health service, in a way that …(c) uses testimonials or purported testimonials about the service or business”
The APS has sought clarification from the PsyBA on a number of occasions about the applicability of this regulation to psychologists’ use of testimonials on books and when promoting continuing professional development workshops, and has also recently included this in a submission to the PsyBA. We are still awaiting clarification on this issue from the PsyBA.
Read C.2.3 of the Code of Ethics.
The APS strongly supports the call for a review of the Government’s proposed $2,000 cap on tax deductions for self-education expenses. A detailed submission has been prepared for the Government’s consultation on this matter, providing details of the impact of the proposed cap on the psychology profession and strongly arguing that the cap is removed or significantly modified.
The APS has joined forces with other professional groups to raise concerns and has also conveyed the APS position in advocacy with Members of Parliament and senior Government bureaucrats.
The key issues of concern to the APS are as follows.
2 July 2013
The Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) transition provision for Western Australian psychologists’ use of specialist titles is due to end on 18 October 2013. From 19 October 2013 those psychologists who are currently eligible will no longer be able to use the word ‘specialist’ in their title. The PsyBA has stated that from 19 October 2013 all business cards, office signage, advertising and office stationery etc must be amended so that it does not display the title ‘specialist’ at all. Any WA psychologist who fails to make changes to his or her specialist title business signage in time for the close of the transition period could incur an extremely hefty fine.
24 June 2013
Two Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) transition periods come to an end on 30 June 2013 with associated deadlines.
Members are urged to carefully read the information in the links below to ensure they have taken any action appropriate to their individual circumstances by 30 June 2013. The PsyBA has given no indication that there will be any leniency when enforcing the new requirements once the deadlines have passed.
17 June 2013
The Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program provides an evidence-based assessment of the psychological health of your workplace along with access to best advice and resources designed to improve staff wellbeing, engagement and performance.
Members' attention is drawn to a recent elaborate email scam targeting psychologists. There may well be variations of this type of scam. The scam involves a person contacting a psychologist by email to inform him or her that he wants to book daily therapy for a group of 10 oil rig workers while they are on vacation.
After negotiating the level and type of services required in further emails to the psychologist, the person undertakes to pay the psychologist but is only able to do this through traveller’s cheques, sometimes via their employer. Ultimately the traveller’s cheques will be received by the psychologist, but are likely to be bogus. Once the psychologist receives the traveller’s cheques, the person then cancels the appointments and asks for a refund of the payment – most likely to another bank account.
Members should be extremely cautious if they are requested to make any arrangement that sounds like this, and they are strongly advised not to process such payments. To attempt to do so could potentially implicate the psychologist in the scam itself.
Jill Wright MAPS was elected as a General Director on the APS Board of Directors in a by-election in May 2013. The by-election was held as the result of a vacancy on the Board as Associate Professor Louise Roufeil FAPS recently resigned to take up a senior position in the APS National Office. Jill has been elected for the remainder of the three-year term ending at the 2015 Annual General Meeting. Her profile can be found here along with those of the other members of the APS Board of Directors.
There were two ‘savings’ measures in the 2013 Federal Budget which have implications for psychologists.
A by-election will be held in May for a General Director position on the APS Board of Directors and nominations for the position are now open. The vacancy has been created as Associate Professor Louise Roufeil FAPS recently resigned from the Board to take up a senior position in the APS National Office. Nominations for this General Director position for the remainder of the original three-year term (ending at the 2015 Annual General Meeting) will close on Friday 26 April 2013.
For further information on the by-election click here.
Clients who commenced treatment with a psychologist under the Better Access initiative at the beginning of 2013 have started to reach the 10 session limit per calendar year, and the reductions to the session allowance this year will increasingly have an impact. APS advocacy for the reinstatement of the exceptional circumstances sessions under Better Access is continuing, as is the overall advocacy with both the Government and the Opposition for the maintenance of this highly successful and cost-effective mental health initiative.
To inform the APS advocacy, members are invited to participate in the APS Better Access Survey 2013. The aim of the 2013 survey is to collect data on clients seen by APS psychologists under the Better Access initiative in 2013 who, at the end of the allowable 10 sessions of treatment, were judged by the psychologist to need further treatment. The study aims to investigate the nature of these clients and the additional treatment arrangements that were put in place. The survey will remain open for the 2013 calendar year and data can be entered at any time. It is recommended that data for relevant clients is entered close to the time when their 2013 episode of treatment ended.
Each year the APS has the opportunity to contribute to the Federal Government’s Budget planning through the call for pre-Budget submissions. This week the APS tendered its Budget submission ahead of the setting of the 2013-14 Federal Budget. The APS has focused on some important areas of service reform that remain unaddressed, despite the changes that have occurred to date through the Government’s health reform agenda.
The APS provided a modest and targeted set of spending proposals to increase community access to effective psychological services and help to ensure the momentum for national health reform is sustained into the future. Specifically, the APS proposed a number of scalable initiatives in the following areas: increasing access to mental health services for children in conjunction with the trial of the Government’s 3-year-old Health Check; improving access to psychological services in residential aged care through a pilot study; improving neuropsychological diagnostic accuracy in aged care services through a trial of funded assessments; improving the treatment of chronic disease and obesity through a trial of behaviour change services in Medicare Locals; and improving access to psychological services for all Australians by restoring the six sessions for exceptional circumstances under the Better Access initiative for clients meeting specified criteria.
The APS Budget submission will be followed up with personal advocacy with key Ministers and their Advisors. To read the APS Budget submission, click here.