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    Professor Mendoza- about the Better Access system failing- its not just psychologists that we can’t afford to pay, its the bl**dy psychiatrists! Can you persuade some of your colleagues to accept the scheduled fee for a limited number of patients per year? I come from both sides of the system- major depression all my life, but also worked in mental health for over 15 years. Last year I was suicidal for months and only kept going in the hope that there must be another avenue of care for me somewhere. I reported to my GP, got the maximum allowed prescribed quantity of the pills that seemed to work, went to a psychologist who just wasn’t equipped to handle the severity of my depression and absolutely begged the GP to refer me to a psychiatrist. (I knew most of them here anyway and knew some would be helpful). Eventually, 6 months later I got my appointment, had my pills upped to the max, but nearly fell over at the second appointment when I was asked to pay “the gap”! That gap is massive enough if you are on Centrelink benefits- and when you have no independent income at all, its crushing. I was extremely lucky that my shrink took pity on me and agreed to take just the scheduled fee. Now I am well, but plenty of my friends and acquaintances are not, because they cannot afford to see a psychiatrist and have their medication managed better. You MUST DO something about this! I am quite resourceful for someone who has been depressed- most aren’t, as you would realise on reflection. YOU and your colleagues need to consider the public health implications of handing over this mental health epidemic to the cheapest services. They are NOT enough.

  2. 2
    Melissa Sweet

    Melissa Sweet

    Chris Tanti, Chief Executive Officer of headspace, has asked for this comment to be posted:

    We know the mental health sector is underfunded and continue to call for increased funding. Both sides of government are clear on our position in this regard.

    But it is inaccurate to suggest that headspace is not delivering help to young people that was envisaged when the headspace model was established.

    headspace has helped more than 37,000 young people so far and 96 per cent of our clients value the service.

    Importantly headspace has been very successful engaging two groups that are traditionally hard to reach. Young men make up 42 percent of our clients and 7 percent are Indigenous Australians – well above the mental health sector average.

    Mendoza is also misinformed about headspace funding. Funds have not been taken or transferred from the 30 existing centres to meet the governments’ target to operate up to 60 centres over the next three years. Additional funding has been received to open these new centres, 10 of which are due to open later this year. Funding was also received to boost the capacity of the majority of existing centres. These funds have already been distributed to these centres.

    Finally, it is rare that clients are charged for our services.

    I suggest that Mendoza visits one of our centres to really understand the positive difference our services are making to the lives of thousands of young people.

  3. 3
    Melissa Sweet

    Melissa Sweet

    John Mendoza asked me to post this comment on his behalf:

    I welcome the comments from the CEO of Headspace central Chris Tanti as this assists in providing some transparency to the operation of headspace.

    As Chris knows I am a very strong advocate for the headspace model, having worked with the winning consortium and later the then responsible Minister (Christopher Pyne) to get the initiative up and running. The model is a very good one – my concerns are about the level of funding after the initial four-year fund finished.

    Having the opportunity to visit headspaces centres in four jurisdictions during my time as Chair of NACMH (and since) and discuss the roll out of the program with those at the coalface has enabled me to keep informed on what is happening to this critical initiative.

    I have become increasingly concerned about the sustainability of the program with 1) several changes in a relatively short time to the lead agencies at a number of sites 2) the reported necessity to introduce fees for allied health consultations and 3) growing criticisms of the headspace program from a range of service providers.

    To clarify these issues I suggest that headspace central provide answers to the following:

    1. How many lead agencies have changed? Where these have occurred? Why have these occurred?

    2. What is the annual funding provided to each headspace site since the establishment of each site? What is the forecast allocation to each site during the expansion to 60 sites nationally? Does this allocation take account of projected growth in demand as well as cost increases?

    3. What is the percentage of consultations (by type – GP, social worker, Psychologist etc) provided at no cost to the client?

    4. What are the average out-of-pocket or co-payment for each service across the sites?

    5. Will headspace release the full independent evaluation on services? If not why not?

    This would certainly set me straight and ensure that headspace centres can contribute to the mental wellbeing of young Australians and not be subject to political argy-bargy over funding.

    One final comment – 42% of clients are reported as being male. This is pretty much in step with overall MBS rates for males. I would have hoped that headspace would after six years of operations, be achieving at least 50-50 in gender profile given the origins of the model.

  4. 4


    Professor Mendoza may well hold the view that Headspace is like a Hollywood Western Pub, but apart from being grossly inaccurate, his letter only further muddies the waters around what could have been a genuine attempt to throw sunlight on the real issue : What will improve the mental health of our young people?

    Professor Mendoza’s preoccupation with who the lead agencies are and whether the clients are seeing social workers or GP’s is surely irrelevant. The young people who come to Headspace will be best served by being referred to a practitioner who has the appropriate skill set for the issues they present with. Not exactly rocket science.

    Similarly, why is the Headspace model suddenly broken because some centres are requesting a small co-payment so they that can continue to offer their services to the maximum – and increasing – number of people who walk through the door ? Co-payments are not exactly a rare animal in the provision of health services, in fact name a health discipline that doesn’t do it?

    These are at best red herrings.

    If Professor Mendoza is wishing to channel the Spanish Inquisition, he would do well to start with BeyondBlue, The National Depression Embarrassment.

    After a decade and more than $200 million of (largely) public money, what have we got?

    Well we certainly don’t have the much promised guidelines on adolescent depression – guidelines which were released in draft form and promptly derided as useless because they completely ignored the issue of sexual orientation and systemic discrimination as one of THE major cohorts to be addressed. Nine months later we are still waiting.

    Interestingly, Headspace is one of the few organisations in the mental health sector, and probably the only one at a national level that has managed to bring GLBTI mental health ‘out of the closet’. An achievement that Professor Mendoza curiously ignores, given that he must know of the excellent work Headspace and their CEO Chris Tanti have done in this sector, and how there can be no meaningful reduction in youth suicide without addressing the GLBTI component.

    Quite frankly, it does appear that Professor is trying to ‘unburn’ the bridges he so publically set on fire when he resigned last year. There can be no doubt that bringing about meaningful mental health reform is frustrating – and the lack of funding makes it doubly so – but pointless sniping is only going to further, not reduce, the frustration levels.

    Rob Mitchell
    Independent Member, Governance & inclusion Project


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