headspace concern over exclusion of key workers from mental health care

Changes to the mental health Medicare rebates that will exclude social workers and occupational therapists will deal a blow to national youth mental health foundation headspace.

Social Workers and Occupational Therapists provide an important role within the headspace model which at its core has a multidisciplinary team delivering quality, individualised, mental health care for young Australians.

The CEO of headspace, Chris Tanti said: "The government's decision to remove Medicare rebates for clients accessing mental health services provided by social workers and occupational therapists will ultimately impact on vulnerable young people and their families particularly those in rural, regional and remote communities.

"This decision will no doubt result in increased waiting lists, meaning young people at-risk may not be able to access timely and affordable mental health care. Early intervention in the lives of young people with mental health problems is crucial, and restricting access to health professionals makes it harder for young people to access treatment. We are anticipating that this Budget decision will have the biggest impact on the capacity of rural and remote headspace Centres where the workforce is already stretched."

headspace was one of the primary beneficiaries of the mental health funding in the federal Budget, receiving $78.8 million for new youth services including 30 new youth-friendly mental health services and the existing 30 headspace sites.

"The headspace model is effective because we offer young people a range of health and mental health services, delivered by medical and allied health professionals, including Social Workers and Occupational Therapists. We believe the Government's investment in headspace may be undermined by these changes," Mr Tanti said.

Research indicates that effectively trained social workers and occupational therapists are providing good outcomes when working with people who show early signs of mental illness. They use focused psychological strategies, complemented by an understanding of a person's social environment, which becomes important when dealing with mental illness.

Mr Tanti said, "Building the capacity of allied health workers, including Social Workers and Occupational Therapists, ensures the long term sustainability of our 30 centres and the delivery of effective and efficient care to those who need it the most, when they need it."

headspace has 30 centres in both regional and metropolitan Australia that offer health advice, support and information for young people. A headspace centre is youth friendly, a place where young people can seek help and a confidential low cost or free service.

headspace media contact:

Briony Walker
Ph 03 9027 0112
Mob 0402 399 746
Email bwalker@headspace.org.au