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National Mental Health Reform - Ministerial Statement 2011-12 Federal Budget

To all Mind Screen practitioners, patients, carers and supporters... 

The long awaited 2011-2012 Australian Federal Budget including significant funding for behavioral health and a National Mental Health Reform - Ministerial Statement is here at last! As well as the increase in funding for behavioral health there are a number of other positives for practitioners, patients, carers and supporters of Global Mind Screen Group:

First, there is a renewed focus on transformational initiatives including a new focus on e-behavioral health which includes e-assessment and e-treatment.

Second, there is a commitment to early intervention through the delivery of increased headspace and EPPIC centers nationwide.

Third, the Government is finally recognizing the importance of the workplace in helping people with behavioral health concerns participate and contribute to the community.

On the down side, the government appears to be funding some of the 'new' initiatives through 'adjustments' and 'recalibrations' of old initiatives. It is 'adjusting' the Better Access Medicare rebates available through Family Physicians. It is not clear how the Government has calculated its expected cost savings from this measure and somehow we doubt this will create the savings they expect. It appears the word 'recalibrating' is merely a euphemism for 'reducing'. It is also not clear how this will lead to increasing access through primary care (see pg 22).  

Budget Measure: Adjustment to the Better Access Initiative - Two tiered rebate for treatment plan sessions – saving $405.9 million over the next five years.
In this Budget, the Government is recalibrating rebates for General Practitioners (Family Physicians) who provide Mental Health Treatment Plans under the Better Access initiative. The change is based on data showing the actual time taken for Family Physicians to complete the plans. Analysis of Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health program data indicated that over 80 per cent of Family Physician Mental Health Treatment Plans under Better Access were being completed in less than 40 minutes, with the median consultation length being 28 minutes. The Government will create two tiers of rebate for Family Physician Mental Health Treatment Plans, of less than 40 minutes and 40 minutes or more, and bring the rebate closer to that applying for standard consultations of the same length. The Government will maintain its incentive for Family Physicians who have completed behavioral health skills training in order to continue to encourage quality and Family Physicians to engage with patients who require behavioral health treatment.

Similarly, we do not expect the capping at 10 (from 18) ATAPS Allied Health health sessions per patient per annum will make much difference. 

We expect there to be quite a backlash on this 'Adjustment' element of the budget.   

Overall, this budget marks a turning point in the Government's entire approach to behavioral health. GMS will continue to urge the Government to be innovative in its approach to behavioral health and will work with Government to ensure it implements these budgeted commitments. 

As soon as we have more detail around how this will be implemented in practice, we will update the www.globalmindscreen.com.au and www.mindscreen.com.au websites and include the details in our next Mind Matters website.

National Mental Health Strategy 2011-12

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