The federal government has announced a $110 million package which will help patients access to up to 40 psychological and 20 dietetic services each year, as of November 1 2019.
The new Medicare items that will be available for sufferers, depending on their treatment needs, include:
- the development of an eating disorders plan by a medical practitioner (including a GP, a consultant psychiatrist or paediatrician);
- regular GP reviews of their progress against the treatment plan;
- a formal specialist review by a consultant psychiatrist or paediatrician;
- up to 40 sessions of evidence-based eating disorder psychological treatment (in a 12-month period) with an allied mental health professional; and
- up to 20 dietetic services for either face-to-face services and telehealth consultations with a dietitian (in a 12-month period).
“These new item numbers will mean many more people with these serious mental illnesses will be able to access the help they need,” Butterfly Foundation CEO, Kevin Barrow said. “We know that, with the right intervention and support, full recovery is possible, and many more people will soon be able to access critical treatment.”
“It is not only the largest single step forward for eating disorders, it is the first time there has ever been a dedicated eating disorders item or set of treatment services available under Medicare,” Hunt added. “It is budgeted, it is funded, it is committed and it will be in place no matter who is in government.”
The investment will benefit around 30,000 people living with an eating disorder, with the subsidies saving families up to $90,000 a year.
“That is a game changer but it is just part of the game, there is so much more that we will need to do,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the publication.
The news comes after a recent survey commissioned by the Butterfly Foundation found that one in four Australians with eating disorders go without basic and essential healthcare or living necessities. Of the 700 people surveyed, one in three had gone into debt in order to pay for treatment, 55 per cent had stopped studying or working due to their illness and 78 per cent of carers had given up work or study to support a loved one.
“We know from personal stories shared with Butterfly that thousands of Australians suffer serious financial and complex social stresses due to the prohibitive cost of treatment,” the foundation’s CEO Christine Morgan said. “Today’s long-awaited announcement makes history for those battling eating disorders.”
Eating disorders have one of the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric illness, with suicide the leading cause of death among these patients. Currently, anorexia is by far the deadliest mental health condition in Australia.
If you are worried about yourself or someone in your care, the best thing you can do is talk to someone. Please contact the Butterfly Foundation 1800 33 4673 or chat online.