Premier and Minister for Health, Jeremy Rockliff, on Tuesday lead a barrage of criticism targeting Federal Government plans to slash support for sessions with psychologists for those with mental health problems.
The Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule initiative allowed those with mental health challenges to claim up to 20 sessions with a qualified mental health professional through Medicare.
But Federal Health Minister, Mark Butler, on Monday confirmed plans to slash the number of allowed visits by half from next year.
He said the 10 additional sessions, which were added to the program as a temporary measure during the COVID pandemic, had aggravated waiting lists and had not been as beneficial and wide-reaching as hoped.
A day after launching the new Recovery College in Hobart, where those with mental health issues can seek support and training to boost wellbeing, Mr Rockliff sharply criticised the Federal decision to cut the initiative when demand for such services is increasing in the state.
"My message to the Federal Government is now is not the time to cut services for mental health, I am deeply concerned about the cutbacks of the psychological support for people within our community," Mr Rockliff said.
Federal Member for Bass, Bridget Archer, joined in the criticism.
"Given the economic uncertainty and cost of living stresses placed on so many right now, I am honestly at a loss to think why the Federal Labor Government would be ripping away an essential service when it is needed more than ever.
"Tasmanians are still feeling the effects of the pandemic, and it has impacted on peoples' mental health and wellbeing. I'm not convinced that halving the number of opportunities through the appointments is going to benefit any individual seeking mental health support," he said.
She also slammed the Albanese government for cutting the additional 10 sessions for Better Access after a review of the initiative by University of Melbourne academics, published on Monday, had recommended the program continue at 20 sessions.
No matter how Labor tries to spin this decision, the independent evaluation of the Better Access initiative recommends that the additional 10 services should continue and should target those with complex mental health needs," she said.
Tegan Carrison, Executive Director of the Australian Association of Psychologists, said the cutback was a blow to mental health.
"This decision is a backwards step that will harm the most vulnerable. To cut back session numbers in the thick of a mental health crisis will have a detrimental impact," she said.
AAPi deeply disagrees with the rationales provided by Minister [Butler] to support the cutting of services, she said."The review stated that barriers to accessing the program were mostly financial - many felt that the gap payment was too high," she said.
"This is why AAPi continues to call for a $150 rebate for psychology clients across the board, which would make it so much more affordable to the general population."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.