Medicare Locals (MLs) are strengthening the primary health care system. We do that in many ways.  We introduce new services that are innovations in their own right, we work to build the nature and scope of the primary health care workforce, and we translate evidence into local solutions.

NewAccess,is a new mental health service based on the highly successful UK NHS program, Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) that demonstrates this translational and transformation role of MLs.

Only a third of Canberrans with depression and anxiety have access to appropriate psychological services.  We’re working to combat the issues of cost and stigma as barriers which continue to be main barriers to mental health support.



We’re proud to be the first Medicare Local to offer the new beyondblueprogram, NewAccess, funded by both beyondblue and Movember.  Since it commenced in October last year, our Access Coaches have provided free assistance to over 185 Canberrans who have mild to moderate depression or anxiety.  It’s rewarding to see locals with mild symptoms of these common mental health issues take early action and receive free low-intensity assistance.

NewAccess aims to increase the number of hard-to-reach populations receiving help, particularly men.  Clients can easily self-refer by calling 6287 8060 or be referred through traditional channels such as GPs

Drawing on the success of the IAPT program in the UK, NewAccess was created to provide clients with a first line treatment, based at the community level.  As a result of the flexible referral pathways and flexible intervention methods including the use of brief low intensity cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) interventions and guided self-help over the phone, the program has been highly successful, with it reducing the burden of existing services and having a significant recovery rate.

The NewAccess program is developing and training a new workforce in Australia.  ACTML is currently employing five community-based Access Coaches who have received intensive training around Low Intensity Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, guided self-help activities and social prescribing through Flinders University.  This program acts as the first line of treatment for people with mild symptoms of depression and anxiety, before there is the need to utilise clinical services.



Our Access coaches are helping clients set practical goals to get them back on track. I was speaking with one of our Access Coaches the other day.  He was telling me about a client who came to NewAccess after a referral from his GP stating that he’d stopped doing things he enjoyed because he’d been feeling depressed for the last few months after losing his job and breaking up with his girlfriend.  After booking an appointment with NewAccess and speaking to one of the Access Coaches, he was able to understand how and why he was feeling the way he was, and the impact this was having on his life.  Over the next few weeks he was able to engage in the behavioural activation techniques that had been explained to him by his Access Coach, and found that this helped significantly improve his mood.  By the end of his six sessions, he was back to doing all the activities he used to enjoy as well as actively looking for work.

NewAccess is adding to the important services already available to the Canberra community through ACTML and others and is helping to strengthen the support for those living with a mental health issue.

In collaboration with partners we’re helping more Canberrans access appropriate help for their mental health concerns, whether it be for mild depression and anxiety, through to severe and persistent mental illness.  It’s all about ensuring that people with mental illness – no matter how severe – have access to the services they need and are supported to lead a contributing life.

ACTML is conducting a Comprehensive Needs Assessment for the ACT.  Our consultations will pinpoint mental health as a priority theme and enable us to co-design how we can further improve primary mental health services for Canberrans.

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