PACFA meets with Federal Mental Health Minister Emma McBride

06 September 2022

PACFA met with the Federal Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Minister Emma McBride, discussing the need to open greater access for the community to counsellors and psychotherapists via Primary Health Networks and Medicare rebates.

The Minister, acknowledging the ‘surge’ in mental health services demand since the Covid pandemic, told PACFA CEO Johanna de Wever there was a sense of urgency around the evaluation of the Better Access Medicare rebate initiative.

She said reform was needed for unmet mental health need across Australia, particularly for people in regional and rural communities. The evaluation of the Better Access Medicare rebate initiative is due by the end of 2022. PACFA is a member of the stakeholder advisory group for the review.

The Minister asked PACFA to convey to member counsellors and psychotherapists her gratitude for the work they do, particularly over the past two years.

‘I’m aware that (the past two years) have taken a toll on them too, their families and households,’ the Minister said. ‘I’m looking forward to continuing to work with you.’

Ms de Wever discussed with the Minister systemic barriers for Primary Health Networks in making full use of the counselling and psychotherapy workforce in meeting mental health demand.

PACFA’s brief stated there is inconsistency across the Primary Health Networks in the way that different commissioned health services consider counsellors and psychotherapists for mental health positions. PACFA would like to see greater employment of counsellors and psychotherapists and increased referrals to counsellors and psychotherapists in private practice.

The Federal Government funds the 31 primary health networks across Australia to coordinate primary health care in their regions. The networks assess need in their region and commission health services.