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Over 900,000 Australians now have mental health plans

A recent report has found Australians are accessing mental health care at unprecedented levels with the cost of the new Medicare Items for mental health services now three times higher than the initial federal government budget estimate.

This was revealed today by Derek Amos, the CEO of Barrier Breakers Inc, a Gippsland based mental health advocacy organisation.  Mr. Amos said the Report on the Mental Health and the New Medicare Services was released recently by the Mental Health Council of Australia and it reveals stark evidence of the need for urgent government action to improve mental health care in Australia.

The Report reveals that since the introduction of thew Medicare Items for mental health services:

  • Demand for mental health services continues to increase with over 5 million Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) payments being made since November 2006.
  • GPs have received over $215 million in payments for mental health consultations and psychologists have received over $250 million since November 2006 with the highest levels of payments occurring in recent months
  • Over 900,000 Australians now have mental health plans prepared by the GP
  • alcohol interlock device Women are twice as likely as men to get care under the new MBS services
  • People living in rural Australia have less access to the new MBS services, indicating a lack of appropriate health professionals and mental health specialists in rural Australia
  • Young people, and particularly young men, are underrepresented in the new services despite their high level of need
  • Out of pocket expenses are higher for services where the Medicare rebate is less than the scheduled fee – this includes psychological and psychiatric services
  • Although the previous government increased budget funding for the new measures to 753m for the period 200611, this increase falls way short of current levels of demand.

Mr. Amos said, ”it was just simply appalling that in this modern computer age, so little is known about the million people using the Better Access Programs, their conditions, their treatment and the degree to which the new mental health services are helping people and their families”.

I urge our Gippsland federal MP’s to press for an urgent evaluation of this report and to support measures to address these issues in the forthcoming federal Budget”, Mr Amos concluded.

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