Mental Health Treatment Plans

Understanding the Mental Health Care Plan Under the Better Access Initiative

What is the Better Access Initiative?

In Australia, many people experience mental health problems. Over two in five Australians aged 16-85 years had experienced a mental health disorder at some time in their life (AIHW, 2023).

The Better Access initiative is a program by the Australian Government designed to help Australians access mental health services. By assisting people to access psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and occupational therapists through the Medicare system, Australians can experience improved mental health.

What is a Mental Health Care Plan?

A Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP) (sometimes referred to as a Mental Health Treatment Plan) is a structured approach to managing mental health conditions, facilitated by your General Practitioner (GP), paediatrician, or psychiatrist. It outlines your mental health needs, sets goals for treatment, and helps you access the necessary services. The plan is developed by you and your GP, ensuring it is tailored to your specific circumstances.

Benefits of a Mental Health Care Plan

  • Access to Subsidised Services: Once you have a MHCP, you can access Medicare rebates for up to 10 individual and 10 group therapy sessions per calendar year with a registered psychologist.
  • Personalised Treatment: Plans are customised to address your unique mental health needs. It is important for you to be involved in your recovery journey.
  • Continued Support: Regular reviews and updates to the plan ensure ongoing support and adjustments as your needs change.

Steps to obtain or organise a Mental Health Care Plan

  • Take the first step, book an appointment with your GP: Tell the reception staff you need a ‘Mental Health Care Plan’ as it can take up to 45 minutes so a longer consultation will allow enough time for a thorough discussion.
  • Assessment: Your GP will assess your mental health, which may involve completing questionnaires and discussing your medical history.
  • Developing the Plan: Together with your GP, you will create a MHCP.
  • Referral: Your GP will provide a referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health care professional as needed.

Who Can Provide Services Under the Plan?

  • Psychologists: Provide evidence- based psychological therapy and strategies to manage mental health conditions.
  • Psychiatrists: Medical doctors specialising in mental health, able to prescribe medication and provide psychotherapy
  • Mental Health-Accredited Social Workers: Offer support and therapy focusing on improving your social and personal functioning.
  • Mental Health-Accredited Occupational Therapists: Help develop skills and strategies to manage daily activities to help improve the quality of life.

Cost and Rebates

  • Medicare Rebates: With a MHCP, you are eligible for Medicare rebates, significantly reducing the out-of-pocket costs for mental health services.

Reviews and Follow-Up

  • Regular Reviews: As a requirement of The Better Access initiative, psychologists and referring GP’s must have ongoing communication and as such, client consent for this communication will be required to access the Better Access rebate.
  • Additional Reviews: MHCPs are usually accompanied by a referral for the initial six sessions. If further sessions are needed, your psychologist will write to your GP, requesting up to an additional four sessions. You will then be asked to visit your GP to obtain a new referral for the additional sessions.
  • Ongoing Management: Continued support and modifications to your MHCP ensure it remains effective as your circumstances change.

How to Maximise Your Mental Health Care Plan

  • Engage Actively: Be proactive in your treatment, attend all scheduled appointments, and participate fully in your therapy sessions.
  • Monitor Progress: Keep track of your progress and any changes in your mental health.
  • Communicate: Maintain open communication with your GP and mental health providers.
  • Seek Support: Utilise support groups, community resources, and other available services to complement your treatment.

For more information, visit the Australian Government's Department of Health website or speak to your GP.

Additional Resources