According to highly respected Clinical/Mental Health Senior Social Worker, Ms Sermin Baycan, the Australian mental health services sector needs an overhaul. Like other mental health professionals operating in the therapy services sector, Ms Baycan found the Australian Government’s confusing convoluted and disparate management of the sector, failed her and left her disillusioned and discouraged by the experience. Ms Baycan is now speaking out as an advocate for others and the need for urgent change across the mental health sector. Her decision to advocate for greater clarity and better systematic management has come from her recent experience in dealing with a broken system.
“I don’t want another mental health professional in this country to endure what I have had to deal with over the last 12 months. As someone who has worked in the mental health sector for many years and has a terrific record in providing highly professional services, but has been caught up in a broken system, I am reluctantly standing up to fight for change,” Ms Baycan said today.
“I provide therapy services to people and organisations to assist people facing difficult life situations. I am not a Psychologist, I am a Mental Health Social Worker.
“Even while promoting myself as a Mental Health Social Worker, I have regularly been confused as a Psychologist.
“Despite the fact that my professional body, the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) has assessed my qualifications and work experience as appropriate to provide psychological services to the public and Medicare has also endorsed, recognised and funded me as a mental health provider, my profession does not come under the banner of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
“Throughout my career, I have had the unfortunate experience of being mistaken for a Psychologist, even by GPs, and promoted as such.
“I recently found myself in breach of a health regulatory law due to these issues, despite the fact that I was registered with Medicare as a Mental Health Social Worker and only ever billed as a Mental Health Social Worker.
“The registration of Psychologists is managed by AHPRA and the registration of social workers is managed by AASW – and the two don’t work together and yet under the Medicare Allied Health – Focused Psychological Strategies Program, both professions undertake the work of the Mental Health Care Plans. Both professions are recognised by Medicare.
“Unfortunately, medical practices and other health professionals don’t know the different between a Psychologist and a Mental Health Social Worker. Social workers know the difference, but sadly very few others do.
“The disconnect between agencies and the Government’s convoluted management of the mental health system and private funding through Medicare is creating unnecessary pain, suffering and challenges for mental health professionals – in particular Mental Health Social Workers.
“While many of us operating in the mental health sector as professionals have always known the system was broken and confusing for consumers and their carers – it makes it difficult for us in the system to constantly correct systematic errors of poor communication between the large funding bodies such as Medicare and professional registration bodies.
“The mental health services sector urgently needs to be reviewed, a Senate Committee established and a new pathway developed to overhaul the Government’s management of the entire system and put in place a system that works, is seamless and provides appropriate support for and the management of mental health professionals as a whole – by one body or at least a network of bodies that work together.
“Mental health Social Workers as a profession do a wonderful job across our community – and often under trying circumstances but are poorly understood in providing psychological services.
“I experienced this lack of understanding first hand and hope to prevent this happening to others. There is a serious lack of understanding of what Mental Health Social Workers do particularly in private practice.
“The Government needs to fix the system, bring all mental health workers under one Government system umbrella and provide them with appropriate support and assistance.
“AHPRA, AASW and Medicare need to work more closely in educating and dispelling confusion in the mental health sector.
“If this happens, we will see fewer mental health professionals leaving the sector and more people wanting to become part of it.
“It is time for the Government to act and I am hoping that all health bodies accept greater responsibility for the clarification of service provision to the public in relation to people’s mental health issues.”