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Accessing a Mental Health Care Plan

What has happened to you in the past can leave you deeply distressed, anxious, depressed or troubled by intrusive thoughts or flashbacks. For some people – though by no means at all – this can undermine their mental wellbeing and enjoyment of life.

If this describes you, and you want to take steps to get back your mental health, Medicare now offers a rebate for some mental health practitioners such as clinical psychologists and social workers. Depending on the practitioner and your income, the rebate covers most or sometimes all of the cost. These are the steps:

1. Establish contact with your GP

First, make an appointment to see your General Practitioner (GP). It is advised that you see a GP you already have a relationship with. If you don’t have an existing relationship with a GP you may want to search for medical practices in the White Pages or online and calling one in your area. Contacting a larger medical practice can make it easier to find a GP who can see you as a new patient and conduct a mental health assessment. Their administration staff or Practice Manager could consider their list of GPs and advise if there is someone there who could help you.

2. Check eligibility and agree on a Mental Health Care Plan

The GP will then assess whether a care plan is suitable for your needs and what other options may be useful. The GP will record your agreement to the service, take a relevant history that includes a mental health assessment, identify if there are any safety concerns, and provide you with a diagnosis or formulation. The GP will then prepare the Mental Health Care Plan where you jointly agree on your goals, the referral and treatment options, and what actions you need to take.

3. Consult with mental health practitioner

You can now start consulting your mental health practitioner and work towards your goals. You may have a practitioner you would like to see, or your GP can suggest one for you. Your GP will only refer you to practitioners who are fully qualified and, depending on your plan, appropriate to work with you. There may be a short wait involved before you can start your sessions. It is common for the practitioner to report back to your GP after the first six sessions.

4. Mental health care review

Between four weeks to six months after you first agree to your Mental Health Care Plan, your GP will review your progress with you. A review may identify that your Care Plan goals are achieved, or indicate that you and your GP consider other options. Based on your review and the mental health practitioner’s recommendations, an additional six appointments with the practitioner can be approved by the GP. The maximum number of appointments per client is 12 per year.

Mental health consultation

If you want additional assistance during the life of your plan, you may be able to see your GP for a mental health consultation. This means you can specifically discuss other issues related to your mental health problem. This appointment is slightly longer than a standard GP appointment.

Please note that whatever you discuss with your GP forms part of your medical history. Insurance companies may have the right to access this information when assessing you for insurance requests and claims. People should not be discouraged by this but may need to take it into consideration.