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Call to give mental health nurses bigger role in dealing with mental health crisis

The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) has urged the Federal Government to consider greater access to MBS items for Credentialed Mental Health Nurses (CMHNs) as a means of dealing with high demand for mental health services.

This comes in response to a call from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) for a Medicare restructure and extra mental health training for general practitioners.

RACGP president Dr Karen Price said: “The reality is that general practice is the most accessible service for many people who require mental health care.

“In some areas outside of major cities, GPs are the only option.”

ACMHN interim president Professor John Hurley responded by saying that while the college acknowledged people facing mental health issues needed all the assistance they could get, GPs shouldn’t be "the first and only group of health clinicians to consider when planning to tackle Australia’s growing mental health crisis".

“If GPs were better trained at treating mental health issues and worked closely with CHMNs, they could make a real difference for those who are currently missing out on adequate treatment,” Hurley said.

“CMHNs are highly-skilled mental health clinicians who’ve undergone a meticulous assessment by the ACMHN. Instead of relying on a workforce that still needs mental health training, the government would be well advised to consider the readily-available CMHN workforce first."

Hurley added that CMHNs can only provide limited services under current Medicare arrangements.

"That’s despite the fact that they have qualifications that are equal to those of other mental health clinicians.”

With one third of psychologists closing their books to new patients, Hurley said not giving CMHNs more access to MBS items was "simply illogical".

“CMHNs are able to provide the highest standard of holistic care and understand how physical and mental health interact. They are ready, they are willing, let them help,” Hurley said.

“With the review of the Better Access program underway, we hope that the Federal Government will take a close look at the skills of qualified mental health nurses, and finally give them the recognition they deserve."

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