Condamine Assist Counselling and Support Service partners and accredited mental health social workers Kathy Payne and Kathryn Walton together have 40 years in the industry and took Warwick’s mental health issues to the Federal Parliament and won.
Condamine Assist Counselling and Support Service partners and accredited mental health social workers Kathy Payne and Kathryn Walton together have 40 years in the industry and took Warwick’s mental health issues to the Federal Parliament and won.

Fighting for our mental health

SHE has dedicated her life to the mental health welfare of the Southern Downs and last week social worker Kathy Payne fought to ensure people of all backgrounds had continued access to these services.

Last Tuesday, the Condamine Assist Counselling and Support Service partner received news the Federal Government had penned perceived “small changes” to the mental health funding arrangements but the modest practitioner’s prompt action meant the decision was reversed a week later.

“This ‘small change’ by the government meant the removal of Medicare rebates for mental health services provided by social workers and occupational therapists,” Mrs Payne said.

“It was a silly decision as it would have been a step backwards which would see Warwick people with mental health issues less able to find and afford quality services they and their families need.

“People in rural communities have different needs when compared to their city counterparts, and we need accredited mental health social workers here to support country people. This type of support is used and needed in this community.”

Mrs Payne met with Federal LNP Maranoa member Bruce Scott in Warwick earlier this week and on Thursday the decision to cut the Medicare rebate for mental health services provided by occupational therapists and social workers was axed.

“It wasn’t just me who fought for this, this was a nation-wide push as the changes would have severely disadvantaged Australians with mental health issues, especially those from disadvantaged and low-income backgrounds, indigenous people, those with multiple needs, and those in rural and regional areas,” she said.

“I’m seeing this as a win and there’s the promise the Federal Government will consult with us regarding future changes.”

A survey released by the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) earlier this month revealed more than one-third of social workers based in regional, rural and remote parts of Australia and 86 per cent of people receiving treatment from social workers for mental health issues said the abolishment of Medicare funding would mean they would not be able to access the services.

With reference to these figures, Mr Scott said he was dismayed the government had not consulted with the AASW before mooting the amendments.

Mr Scott said Labor’s Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon “sneakily” attempted to abolish Medicare rebates for mental health services provided in this year’s Federal Budget but quickly revised her decision due to protest from professionals like Mrs Payne.

The Federal Government will now wait nine months before handing down a review into mental health services.

The changes were originally set for July 1 but have been pushed back until April 1, 2011

“Once again Labor Health Minister Roxon has been forced to make an extraordinary backflip on her plans to abolish this vital rebate for mental health services, but she has still not committed to the continued support for these important health workers,” Mr Scott said.



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