Federal Minister for Mental Health, Mark Butler

A few months ago, the Australian Government cut public access to psychological services, but now there is a chance to reverse this decision. We need YOU to sign the petition below so that our politicians can see the public objections to this move.

Since the beginning of November last year, people with a diagnosed mental disorder who are referred by their GP for psychological treatment have had their access to services cut short to just 10 appointments, regardless of their need for further therapy. Research has shown that 16 to 20 sessions of cognitive behaviour therapy and interpersonal therapy are often required for lasting improvement. A review of the research funded by the Australian government also confirms that up to 20 sessions are needed to treat common psychological conditions. A large-scale review of the scheme recently found that the Better Access program delivered cost-effective treatment options for a majority of people who had never accessed services before. These cuts down to just 6 sessions with a further 4 pending re-approval from a GP, contradicts the controlled research replicated world-wide regarding the recommended minimum treatment for mental health care.

On 1 February 2012, the Government announced that from March until December this year, people with a diagnosed mental health disorder will temporarily be able to receive 6 more appointments of psychological treatment if they can demonstrate that their case is “exceptional”. Unfortunately, this news also confirms the information we received that the Government made a deal with The Greens to stop them from disallowing the cuts. Subsequently, the Greens have now withdrawn their motion to disallow these cuts to mental health services. Join us in raising your concerns about this latest compromise. This temporary offer of 16 sessions is still a reduction to psychological services and by the end of the year the Government plans to once again cut services down to just 10 sessions again. The Government claims that the ATAPS program will replace services that are being lost in these cuts, however, we know that this claim is simply not true.

The limit of 10 sessions stops people from accessing psychological treatment at the half-way mark. Therapists are expected to select evidence-based treatments, but will only be able to do half of the job. Addressing the gaps in our health system must not come at the cost of programs in mental health care that have been shown to be effective.

You can also visit our campaign website for more information.

We call on the Australian Government to re-instate a fair policy for mental health care, namely 12-18 sessions with a psychologist, social worker, occupational therapist, or GP specialising in mental health care in the 'Better Access to Mental Health Care' initiative.

The 'Better Access' to Psychological Services petition to Federal Minister for Mental Health, Mark Butler was written by Ben Mullings and is in the category Health at GoPetition.