Australia’s peak psychology body has welcomed the draft report of the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Mental Health, but cautions against the lack of consideration given to the expertise and role of Australia’s largest mental health workforce.
Australian Psychological Society (APS) President Ros Knight said the APS supported the Productivity Commission’s call for ‘a generational shift’ in the way we approach mental health care.
“It is clear that now is the time to fix mental health in Australia, and this reform agenda is a critical step towards that. The acknowledgement that mental health is as important as physical health is both significant and long overdue, given the burden of mental illness on Australia’s health system, society and economy,” she said.
Ms Knight said the APS was encouraged to see components of the recommendations from its submission to the inquiry have been incorporated into the Commission’s draft report.
“The draft report focuses on prevention and early intervention in children and young people, and the APS agrees that these should be key areas of focus and investment,” she said.
“The APS supports the draft recommendation to trial doubling of the number of Medicare-funded sessions with a psychologist from 10 to 20, for patients with complex conditions. However, we maintain that all clients should have access to 20 sessions, that those with more complex conditions should have access to 40 sessions, and that this should be a permanent reform to the current Medicare system.”
“The recommendation to pool Federal and State funding to create clear pathways and continuity of care for those who need crisis services and post-intervention assistance provides an opportunity for a collaborative and consistent approach to tackling mental health care.”
Ms Knight said the APS also has some serious concerns about some of the draft recommendations, particularly relating to access and funding, and what they will mean for the public.
“This Inquiry has the potential to lead to the most significant mental health reform agenda our country has ever seen, and as Australia’s largest mental health workforce, psychologists must be appropriately represented and acknowledged within the report.”
“We are concerned that the report is overly focused on gaps, not strengths. If we want to address the $180 billion headache the report has outlined, governments must look at building out the strengths in our system – one of these being the expertise and experience of the psychology workforce,” she said.
“Making the best use of an existing resource makes sense. There are more than 35,000 registered psychologists in Australia who are at the frontline of patient care every day. We will only see a significant reduction in the social, financial and economic burden costs if we adopt a more pragmatic approach and properly fund psychological services.”
“We cannot support any changes or any model of care that potentially limits access or choice for patients, or any draft recommendations that marginalise the work of psychologists.”
“Our formal response to the Commission’s draft report will be focused on ensuring that access, funding, training and resources are in the best interest of the community”, she said.
The APS will be making a formal submission to the Productivity Commission. The APS original submission can be found at https://www.psychology.org.au/for-members/advocating-for-psychology/Productivity-Commission.