Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Australia plans for better health care for those with mental illness

From the Government Monitor in Australia:

Following the budget last week, the Government has had constructive discussions with the Australian Association of Social Workers and Occupational Therapy Australia on how to best introduce coordinated mental health care packages for people with severe mental illness in primary care and better use of fee-for-service Medicare items.

These packages of care will provide more integrated care focused on each patient’s individual mental health care needs, compared to current fee-for-service arrangements that focus on single episodes of care.

The Government recognises the valuable clinical skills that social workers and occupational therapists have brought to support people with mental illness, as part of integrated, team­based care. In particular, the Government appreciates their preparedness to enhance support for those most in need in our community.

The Government looks forward to working collaboratively with social workers and occupational therapists to ensure that they are properly supported under the new arrangements.

Accordingly, the Government will work closely with them on the design of the planned packages of care for people with severe mental illness, so that their clinical and other skills and experience are fully utilised.

In collaboration with social workers, occupational therapists and current service providers, the Government will also seek to ensure current mental health programs better use the skills of these highly qualified professionals. These programs include Access to Allied Psychological Services and the Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Areas program.

The Government is currently evaluating the provision of the mental health services through the Medicare Benefits Schedule under the Better Access program.

As part of this, the Government will work closely with social workers and occupational therapists, as well as clinical and registered psychologists, to examine further ways to provide coordinated care to those most in need.

To ensure that future the Better Access reforms are informed by the evaluation, and the detailed design of care packages can be developed in consultation with professional groups, the Government will defer the introduction of the care packages and any associated changes to fee-for-service Medicare arrangements until 1 April 2011.

Until then, current arrangements will remain in place.

The revised implementation strategy will be cost neutral over the forward estimates.

Over 4 years from 1 April 2011, it is anticipated that up to 25,000 people with severe mental illness will benefit from the new Flexible Packages of care.

The Government is committed to reforming Australia’s mental health system so that it provides better integrated care to those most in need in our community.