Further boost for rural Vic mental health care

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) welcomes further funding for scholarships for rural and regional GPs in Victoria.

The scholarships are used to undertake mental health skills training to improve access to care.

It comes after Victoria went into a sixth lockdown on 5 August 2021, due to more cases of Covid-19 being detected in the community.

The Rural Workforce Agency Victoria (RWAV) have agreed to fund an additional 100 scholarships at $100,000 after an overwhelming response from rural GPs to the first offer in February.

Scholarships provide full subsidisation for GPs in rural and regional Victoria to undergo the RACGP’s Focussed Psychological Strategies Skills Training, to become Medicare registered Focused Psychological Service providers.

GPs who complete the training can go on to provide Focussed Psychological Strategies (FPS) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)-derived counselling to patients.

“GPs have seen demand for mental health care skyrocket across the state,” says RACGP Victoria Chair, Dr Anita Munoz.

“Even before the pandemic, mental health was a major concern in Australia – for the past few years it has rated as the most common presentation GPs deal with in the RACGP annual Health of the Nation survey.

“People are doing it tough all over, but it’s especially hard for those in regional and rural communities that don’t have access to local mental health services, like counselling or psychiatry.”

Dr Munoz continues, “That’s why training is so valuable. It’s improving access to specialised mental health care for patients in communities where it’s needed most.”

RACGP Rural Chair Dr Michael Clements says patients often turn to their GP for mental health help.

“People often don’t realise that GPs provide the vast majority of mental health care in Australia, but it makes sense – a GP is often the first port of call for patients, and it’s magnified in regional and rural communities.

“I encourage GPs in rural and regional Victoria to grab this opportunity and apply for a scholarship – you’ll be helping to increase access to high quality mental health care and making a big difference for your patients and whole community.”

For more information, please visit the RACGP website.

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