Medi­care boost to im­prove men­tal health

Western Times - - NEWS - Sherele Moody sherele.moody@news­re­gional­me­dia.com.au

A NEW Medi­care re­bate will boost the men­tal health of ru­ral and re­mote Aus­tralians.

The $9 mil­lion four-year tele­health pro­gram will en­sure res­i­dents of small towns and other re­mote ar­eas can ac­cess re­bates for seven on­line video­con­fer­enc­ing con­sul­ta­tions with psy­chol­o­gists.

It means pa­tients will not have to travel to re­gional cen­tres or big cities to get men­tal health sup­port from qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­als.

Ru­ral and re­mote ar­eas strug­gle to at­tract med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als to prac­tise in their ar­eas and re­search also shows that sui­cide and self-harm rates are higher out­side of cap­i­tal and re­gional cities.

This news­pa­per last year called on the Fed­eral Government to ad­dress men­tal health sup­port gaps across our re­gion through the Fair Go for Re­gional Aus­tralia Cam­paign.

Start­ing in Novem­ber, the new Medi­care re­bate will be rolled out by the Fed­eral Government’s Re­gional Aus­tralia Min­is­te­rial Task­force.

Ru­ral Doc­tors As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia pres­i­dent Dr Ewen McPhee said the re­bates could lead to re­duced sui­cide rates in our re­gion.

“There is no doubt that en­hanced ac­cess to psy­cho­log­i­cal ser­vices will help nar­row the gap in health eq­uity for ru­ral peo­ple,” Dr McPhee said.

“Ru­ral peo­ple are stoic. They of­ten do the hard yards in face of the va­garies of the weather, re­mote­ness and the ru­ral econ­omy.

When the go­ing is tough it’s good to know they can ac­cess the same care as city folk.

“Ru­ral sui­cide rates have never been higher and this is an im­por­tant in­vest­ment by the Coali­tion in the health of all ru­ral Aus­tralians.”

Aus­tralian Psy­cho­log­i­cal So­ci­ety pres­i­dent An­thony Cichello also wel­comed the move, say­ing on­line video­con­fer­enc­ing would im­prove out­comes for ru­ral and re­mote Aus­tralians.

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