The APS attended the AMA forum, The Health Care of Asylum Seeker and the Harms Caused by Immigration Detention, especially for Children, in Sydney on Sunday. It was attended by a range of health professionals including psychologists, such as former APS President Amanda Gordon FAPS. The forum agreed that detention of children is a form of child abuse, which should be supported by health professionals.
There were presentations from people with firsthand knowledge of the off-shore and on-shore processing centres, describing the conditions in which people were being detained. This included details about children being deprived of educational and social opportunities, affected by mental health issues and where parents struggled to care for them.
Discussion included on the role of health professionals working within immigration detention centres, and the overwhelming, although not unanimous, view was that it was better to be involved so as to advocate for detainees. There was concern that Australian health professionals refusing to work in Australia’s immigration detention network could compound the “out of sight, out of mind” problem and that the immigration system could employ overseas professionals instead.
The sentiment that health professionals should lead the way in Australian society, advocating to remove children from detention, was endorsed unanimously by attendees.
In November last year the APS expressed some reservations about unsolicited emails from Workplace Options that had been sent to APS members. Workplace Options is an American-registered company which offers workplace counselling to employees globally which may involve the use of unsolicited emails to recruit local service providers. The reservations stated by the APS were in response to members’ concerns about receiving such emails. Since then, senior staff from Workplace Options have been in communication with the APS and have sought to further clarify and more fully elaborate on how the entity’s professional approaches are made where a psychologist is sought in a particular geographical area to provide a service to a Workplace Options client.
As with all unsolicited communications (including emails), ultimately responsibility lies with the member to exercise due diligence to make the necessary further inquiries or assessments if warranted, and to satisfy themselves of legitimacy before deciding to proceed and accept any offer of engagement. These checks are particularly critical if the offer is made from an overseas source which could involve a member having to necessarily provide personal and professional details via email in a global market for such services. Members are reminded that in such a context there is likely to be a trans-border data flow to a jurisdiction where the laws of Australia are unlikely to apply.
On November 12th and 13th, four members of the APS disaster response reference group, Professor David Forbes, Professor Mark Creamer, Professor Richard Bryant and Dr Susie Burke, joined psychologists and psychiatrists and other disaster experts from America, Canada, the UK, and Australia in a two day international roundtable meeting in Sydney to begin to develop an internationally agreed protocol to address the mental health impact of disasters.
The roundtable Psychological Recovery following Community Disaster: An International Collaboration was a joint initiative of Phoenix Australia and The Prince’s Charities Australia. The group were honoured to meet and speak with HRH the Prince of Wales at the welcome reception on the first day of the roundtable.
The aim of the international collaboration is to design and evaluate an intervention for individuals with sub-clinical psychological problems in the months following exposure to a disaster. The intervention will be trialled in all four countries before being made widely available for adoption.
There is currently no readily available, trialled and tested intervention for the significant proportion of people exposed to disaster who are at risk of developing clinically significant, but sub-threshold psychological problems. Unless supported adequately, these people are at increased risk of going on to develop more serious mental health problems. This proposed intervention will fill a significant gap in disaster recovery in developed countries around the world.
The Government’s response to the National Review of Mental Health Programs and Services, which was conducted by the National Mental Health Commission in 2014, was released yesterday. The response seeks to deliver system change over the next three years with the 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs) playing a central role in the reformed architecture for mental health service delivery.
The Government’s response acknowledged the effectiveness and importance of the Better Access Initiative and psychological services will continue to be provided through Better Access.
Extreme and distressing events like the recent violent attacks in Paris and Beirut are powerful and upsetting incidents. Even following these events from a distance on the media can be distressing. Below are some helpful resources for responding to these events, looking after yourself after a crisis, and for helping children to deal with frightening events.
An election for the APS President-Elect and two General Director positions on the APS Board of Directors was held by electronic voting and postal ballot, and the results were declared at the 2015 APS AGM on 2 October 2015.
The successful candidate for the President-Elect is Mr Anthony Cichello MAPS. Following a 12-month term as President-Elect, Mr Cichello will assume the office of President of the APS from the AGM in 2016 for a term of two years.
As Mr Cichello was already a Director on the APS Board (with two years remaining of the three year term for which he was originally elected), his election to President-Elect produced a third vacancy for a General Director on the Board. Therefore three successful candidates have been newly elected to General Director positions on the Board and they are:
Dr Carr-Gregg and Dr Wilmoth will each serve a three-year term and Dr Allen’s term is for two years (to fill the vacancy created by Mr Cichello’s election to President-Elect).
Following the publication of the American Psychological Association’s Independent Review Relating to APA Ethics Guidelines, National Security Interrogations and Torture, the Australian Psychological Society reiterates its 2007 Declaration on Torture. The 2007 APS Declaration was developed in the context of the debate surrounding the APA’s policies on the involvement of psychologists in military and CIA interrogation techniques.
Australian Psychological Society Declaration on Torture (2007)
Members' attention is drawn to an elaborate email scam targeting psychologists which has recently re-emerged. There may well be variations of this type of scam. The scam involves a person contacting a psychologist by email to inform him or her that he wants to book daily therapy for a group of 10 oil rig workers while they are on vacation.
After negotiating the level and type of services required in further emails to the psychologist, the person undertakes to pay the psychologist but is only able to do this through traveller’s cheques, sometimes via their employer. Ultimately the traveller’s cheques will be received by the psychologist, but are likely to be bogus. Once the psychologist receives the traveller’s cheques, the person then cancels the appointments and asks for a refund of the payment – most likely to another bank account.
Members should be extremely cautious if they are requested to make any arrangement that sounds like this, and they are strongly advised not to process such payments. To attempt to do so could potentially implicate the psychologist in the scam itself.
The latest ‘Connections’ newsletter from the Psychology Board of Australia has an item titled ‘Eligibility requirements for psychologists under the Medicare Better Access initiative’ that requires clarification.
The newsletter states:
“Psychologists who are approved to provide Medicare psychological therapy services will now be required to hold general registration as a psychologist and a clinical psychology area of practice endorsement. Medicare is allowing grandfathering provisions for psychologists who are already approved to provide psychological therapy services on the basis of the previous Australian Psychological Society pathway. These psychologists may continue to provide these services for 12 months, after which time a clinical psychology endorsement is required.”
This statement has caused considerable concern and confusion, and two matters require clarification.
Any members who were assessed as eligible for membership of the APS College of Clinical Psychologists and who do not have an area of practice endorsement in clinical psychology with the Psychology Board of Australia should contact the APS Member Assistance Centre on 1800 333 497 or 8662 3300 (if calling from Melbourne).
The Federal Government has recently announced the outcomes of a competitive tender process to select the organisations to operate the 31 new Primary Health Networks (PHNs) that will replace the existing 61 Medicare Locals from 1 July 2015 (as announced in the 2014-15 Federal Budget). Most applications to operate PHNs were put forward as collaborative partnerships, or consortium arrangements, between several organisations. On 11 April the Minister for Health announced the lead organisation for the successful PHN bids, with further information about consortium partners yet to be released.
The Government has indicated there will be transitional period from April 2015, and comparable funding agreements put in place during the first year of PHN operation for services currently funded by Medicare Locals. However, it is unclear what these arrangements will mean in practice. As a result, many service providers (including those employed directly and under programs such as ATAPS and Partners in Recovery) have no information on whether their existing contracts with Medicare Locals will be continued beyond 30 June 2015, or in what form. Much of this detail will be subject to contract negotiations that will take place between PHNs and Medicare Locals over the coming weeks. The APS is continuing to seek further details and will keep members informed as these become available.
The APS was involved in the largest ever mental health delegation to Federal Parliament this week, meeting with more than 40 Members of Parliament and Senators, including Ministers and Shadow Ministers. The Mental Health Advocacy Day was organised by Mental Health Australia (MHA) of which the APS is a prominent member organisation and Lyn Littlefield is its Deputy Chair.
The delegation met with more than 40 parliamentarians across the political spectrum, advocating for strong policy commitment to mental health. In particular, the delegation called for the release of the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Services, followed by consultation with the mental health sector about improvements to the mental health system. The delegation also advocated for a cross party commitment to a 10-year reform plan for mental health, as well as funding certainty for Australians using community-based services.
The day-long series of meetings was well-received by politicians, who were very interested in the issues raised around mental health.
A number of members have rung with enquiries about the requirements under Medicare for managing clients on GP Mental Health Treatment Plans across the new calendar year. Some members are also receiving queries from referring GPs about whether the GP needs to prepare a new Mental Health Treatment Plan or provide a new referral when an existing client is going to continue to receive psychological services in 2015.
The requirements for Treatment Plans and referrals have not changed this year but there is often confusion amongst GPs and psychologists about how to interpret the requirements of the relevant Medicare item numbers.
Once an initial GP Mental Health Treatment Plan is in place, a new Plan should not be prepared unless clinically required and generally not within 12 months of a previous Plan. The GP can provide ongoing management through the GP Mental Health Treatment Consultation and Standard Consultation items, as required, and reviews of progress through the GP Mental Health Treatment Plan Review item. At these GP appointments, the GP can provide the client with a new referral for psychological services if the GP considers that the client requires additional psychological services (up to the calendar year entitlement of 10 sessions).
In summary, clients who were being managed by their GP under a Treatment Plan in 2014 who need to access further referred services during 2015 do not need to have a new Treatment Plan prepared unless required by the client’s clinical condition, needs or circumstances. There is also no need for a new referral unless the client has already received the number of sessions that was stipulated on the 2014 referral. If a client enters 2015 having used up all previously referred services, then the GP can provide a new referral if they consider that the client requires additional psychological services (up to the calendar year entitlement of 10 sessions).
It is important to note, that once the Treatment Plan is in place, the GP can use the referral process to access continued psychological services for the client (up to the calendar year maximum)– similar to a referral to any specialist.