Cap Allied Mental Health Services

Rationalisation of Allied Mental Health Services Under Better Access: 2011-12 Budget Measure.

Page last updated: 06 June 2011

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Key Points:

From 1 November 2011 Medicare rebates for eligible people with a diagnosed mental disorder under the Better Access initiative will be capped at 10 individual allied mental health services per calendar year, from 12.
From this date eligible people with a diagnosed mental disorder will be able to access up to 10 individual and/or up to 10 group allied mental health services per calendar year.

Following the initial course of treatment (a maximum of six services) consumers will be able to access four more sessions (to a maximum of 10 services per calendar year). Consumers will also be eligible for a total of 10 group sessions per calendar year in addition to their individual sessions.

Consumers currently receiving allied mental health services under Better Access will still be able to access up to 12 individual and/or up to 12 group services up to 1 November 2011. In exceptional circumstances an additional six individual services may be accessed before 1 November 2011 by those consumers who are currently receiving treatment. This exception circumstances provision of up to 18 services will also be reduced to 10 sessions from 1 November 2001. Individuals who have already accessed 10 or more individual and 10 or more group services by 1 November will not be eligible for additional services until 1 January 2012.

Savings being generated from this change are being reinvested in additional mental health services for particularly vulnerable and hard to reach groups – through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) program, additional childhood and early intervention youth services and improving the coordination and accessibility of services for individuals with severe mental illness.

Implementation of this 2011-12 Budget measure:

The Department is working on implementation arrangements and further information will be made available to consumers and providers in the near future.

People who need more than 10 allied mental health services
It is important that people get the right care for their needs. People who currently receive more than 10 allied mental health services under Better Access may have more severe or complex needs and would be better suited for referral to more appropriate mental health services.

People with severe and persistent mental disorders who require over 10 allied mental health services are still eligible for up to 50 Medicare Benefits Schedule consultant psychiatrist services per annum, or to access the specialised mental health system in each State or Territory.

To help make psychiatrist services available in more areas from 1 July 2011 the Government will also provide new Medicare rebates for online psychiatrist consultations for patients living in regional, remote and outer metropolitan areas. GPs, specialists and other health professionals will be provided with financial incentives to help deliver these online services and funding will also be provided to support training and supervision for health professionals.

The Government is also investing in a range of expanded mental health services including:

  • Doubling funding to the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS)
  • 30 more youth friendly headspace services
  • 16 new Early Psychosis Prevention Intervention Centers (EPPIC)
  • A doubling in the number of Family Mental Health Services
Background to the Budget Measure

The Government is delivering on its commitment to make mental health a second term priority, with a major investment to reform the mental health system totalling $2.2 billion over the next five years – including $1.5 billion in new measures in the 2011-12 Budget.

The reforms will be focused on delivering the services that have the best chance of improving the lives of thousands of Australians suffering from mental illnesses, now and into the future.

In the case of the changes made to the Better Access initiative through the Budget, the Government listened to the experts in the Mental Health sector and weighed up the available evidence, including from the recent independent evaluation of the program.

The evaluation shows that almost three quarters of people who received an allied mental health service after a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan only needed between one and six services. The average number of mental health services received after a GP Mental Health Treatment Plan is five.

The majority (87 per cent) of current Better Access users receive between one and ten sessions, and will be unaffected by the new cap.

The Government doesn’t take the decision to make changes to Medicare services lightly, but given the tight fiscal environment we have a responsibility to ensure that our investments are appropriately targeted to ensure maximum value.

Further information
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