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New education and training for better mental health care

14 August, 2007

New education and training packages launched recently by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Brett Mason, will help GPs and other health professionals to continue providing quality care to people with a mental illness.

The Australian Government is providing $3.2 million to the Australian General Practice Network (AGPN) and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) to produce and deliver the material on behalf of the Mental Health Professionals Association (MHPA), Senator Mason said.

“This funding underpins the $507 million Better Access initiative announced last year to improve access to mental health care by GPs, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and other appropriately trained allied mental health professionals,” he said.

“Since it was introduced on 1 November 2006, more than 1.2 million mental health services have been claimed under Medicare. This positive uptake indicates that Better Access is meeting community demand for services.

“More than 400,000 patients have benefited from access to these services, including around 100,000 patients in rural and remote areas,” Senator Mason said.

Under the new funding, the AGPN will develop and deliver a Better Access Information and Orientation information package, which will be available from September. The training will be delivered through the Divisions of General Practice and the training teams will include both GPs and psychologists.

The MHPA will develop the National Multidisciplinary Training Resource, which will complement the AGPN package and provide training from an in-depth clinical perspective.

“The Better Access measure encourages a team-based approach to mental health care in the community and includes $54 million for education and training,” Senator Mason said.

“These new resources will help to inform GPs and allied mental health professionals about ways to collaboratively provide better support and care using the Better Access program.”

The Better Access Medicare items have substantially increased opportunities for treatment for those Australians who need mental health care.

Senator Mason said the Government recognised that, while people living in rural and remote locations would benefit from the new Medicare services, they also faced particular challenges in getting access to them.

To help meet these challenges, the Government’s Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Areas initiative was providing $72.3 million over five years to improve mental health services in rural and remote communities, including drought-affected areas.

Complementing new Medicare services available under Better Access, the Government has confirmed its commitment to the continuation of the Better Outcomes in Mental Health Care program, which includes Access to Allied Psychological Services, as an ongoing program.