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Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS)

What it does

ATAPS enables GPs to refer consumers with a mild to moderate diagnosed mental disorder to ATAPS mental health professionals who deliver short term Focussed Psychological Strategies services.
ATAPS mental health professionals include psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses, occupational therapists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers with specific mental health qualifications.

Through ATAPS, patients are eligible for a maximum of 12 sessions per calendar year - six time-limited sessions with an option for a further six sessions following a mental health review by the referring GP. Sessions can be individual and/or group therapy sessions. ATAPS provides patients with assistance for short-term intervention. If further sessions are required it may mean that the patient needs a longer term more intense support to meet his/her needs and should be referred to other services.

In addition, the referring practitioner may consider that in exceptional circumstances the patient may require an additional six individual focussed psychological strategies services above those already provided (up to a maximum total of 18 individual services per patient per calendar year). Exceptional circumstances are defined as a significant change in the patient's clinical condition or care circumstances which make it appropriate and necessary to increase the maximum number of services. It is up to the referring practitioner to determine that the patient meets these requirements. In these cases a new referral should be provided, and exceptional circumstances noted in that referral.

Through ATAPS, patients are also eligible for up to 12 separate group therapy services, within a calendar year, involving 6-10 patients. These group services are separate from the individual services and do not count towards the 12 individual mental health services in a calendar year.

Patients are not to be referred for treatment through Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medical Benefits Schedule (Better Access) initiative and ATAPS at the same time or in the same calendar year unless their individual circumstances have changed. Changed circumstances include: changes in location where the person is no longer able to access Better Access services due to workforce constraints; or their financial circumstances change and they are no longer able to meet the co-payments associated with Better Access services. In deciding if ATAPS is more appropriate GPs should consider the focus and target of the ATAPS programme.

Medicare Locals are fundholders for ATAPS. All 61 Medicare Locals are funded to provide mental health services. Further information on Medicare Locals can be found at http://www.medicarelocals.gov.au/ which allows individuals to obtain information on their nearest Medicare Local.

What it achieves

ATAPS is designed to target services to hard to reach groups who continue to miss out on Medicare subsidised services. These include: people from low socioeconomic areas; individuals at risk of suicide or self harm; individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; and people in rural and remote areas. ATAPS also focuses on Indigenous people, children and women with perinatal depression.

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