Fund qualified mental health nurses now to address Australia’s mental health system bottleneck
Monday 9 May 2022
Psychologists’ and psychiatrists’ waiting lists continue to blow out across Australia, leaving the ‘missing middle’ in the lurch. It doesn’t have to be that way, if only governments chose to fund qualified mental health nurses.
Australia’s ‘missing middle’ - often too unwell for primary care, but not unwell enough for state-based services – can’t get the right help they need on time.
Qualified mental health nurses are therapy-trained mental health clinicians who could step in, but with current limitations on access to Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item numbers, there is little they can do.
“The focus continues to be on waiting lists for psychologists and psychiatrists, but they’re not the only qualified mental health clinicians out there. If you want to help the missing middle, give Credentialed Mental Health Nurses (CMHNs) eligibility for the Better Access program and associated MBS items,” Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) Interim President Professor John Hurley said.
“CMHNs bring deep knowledge and expertise in identifying and treating mental health issues, and by passing the College’s credentialing process, have proven that they can undertake these interventions to the highest standard.
“There is no rational reason to keep locking them out of opportunities to actually do what they do best – help vulnerable Australians and their families.”
The College is urging parties to pay more attention to mental health in their election campaigns, and provide not only appropriate funding, but also amend the MBS parameters for qualified mental health nurses to resolve the bottleneck in Australia’s mental health care system.
“If you want to help the ‘missing middle’, you must look towards qualified mental health nurses as part of the solution. Continuing with the same approach is a travesty to the Australian people. The College stands ready to help and consult on this matter, and we will continue to reach out to parties and governments. However, we need real commitments now to help those that are falling through the widening cracks in our mental health care system,” Professor Hurley said.
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