Meeting demand for psychological services for people with depression and anxiety: recent developments in primary mental health care

Justine R Fletcher, Bridget Bassilios, Fay Kohn, Lucio Naccarella, Grant A Blashki, Philip M Burgess, Jane E Pirkis
Medical Journal of Australia 2008 June 16, 188 (12): S107-9

OBJECTIVE: To examine whether there was a reduction in demand for psychological services provided through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) projects after the introduction of the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (Better Access) program, and whether any such reduction was greater in urban than rural areas.

DESIGN AND SETTING: A Division-level correlation analysis examining the relationship between the monthly number of sessions provided by allied health professionals through the ATAPS projects run by Divisions of General Practice, and allied health professional services reimbursed by Medicare Australia under the Better Access program, between 1 November 2006 and 31 March 2007.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Uptake of each program, assessed by the number of sessions provided.

RESULTS: Overall, despite dramatic uptake of the Better Access program in the first 5 months after its introduction, the demand for ATAPS services was not reduced. The correlations between the numbers of sessions provided by both programs overall (r = - 0.078; P = 0.074) and in rural Divisions (r = 0.024; P = 0.703) were not significant. However, there was a significant negative correlation between the numbers of sessions provided by both programs in urban Divisions (r = - 0.142; P = 0.019).

CONCLUSIONS: For the first 5 months of the Better Access program, the two programs seemed to operate relatively independently of each other in terms of service provision, but in urban Divisions there was a move towards services provided through the Better Access program. Early indications are that the two programs are providing complementary services and are working together to address a previously unmet need for mental health care.

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