Governments must let mental health nurses help children in regional areas

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Children in regional Western Australia wait up to a year to see a clinical psychologist. Instead of letting qualified mental health nurses help now, governments are dragging their feet.

Data from WA Country Health tabled in Parliament last week showed that school-aged children in regional areas had to wait up to a year to see a clinical psychologist.

Premier Mark McGowan said his government was committed to hiring many more child psychologists and school chaplains. However, the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) believed that focusing on such a narrow range of service providers is not a reasonable approach to helping children who are desperate for support now.

“Early intervention is key. It is unacceptable that children cannot access a mental health clinician when they need it most. It also doesn’t have to be this way – if Credentialed Mental Health Nurses (CMHNs) were able to practice independently with access to Medicare Benefits Schedule items, they could quickly contribute to help fill this gaping hole in mental health care for young persons,” ACMHN Vice-President Monica Taylor said.

About 25 per cent of the national mental health workforce work outside metro centres. Numerically, they are the largest specialist mental health workforce in outer regional, remote, and very remote Australia.

“There are many CMHNs in remote areas ready to help, and they often have the skills to provide in-depth psychotherapy in addition to other clinical interventions. They have specific qualifications in the field and pack years of experience in working with children facing complex mental health issues. Yet governments continue to prevent CMHNs from contributing,” ACMHN Interim President Professor John Hurley said.

“We were pleased to see the WA Government committing to the recommendations of the Ministerial Taskforce into Public Mental Services for Infants, Children and Adolescents in WA Final Report, including giving mental health nurses more involvement in critical decisions regarding service delivery and workforce opportunities,” Ms Taylor said.

“However, this won’t be enough. The Federal Government needs to move forward and give CMHNs broad access to MBS items now, so that they may work independently and help young people in regional areas. Our young deserve the best care, and CMHNs can provide that,” she added.

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Australian College of Mental Health Nurses press release, mental health nursing, regional mental health Australia, rural mental health Australia., youth mental health

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