Mental Health Endorsement FAQs

OTA has developed these FAQs for the Mental Health Endorsement that you may wish to review.

Mental Health Endorsement FAQs

The Occupational Therapy Australia - Mental Health Endorsement (otaus.com.au) provides recognition of the additional knowledge, skills and experience of occupational therapists focusing their scope of practice on mental health. The endorsement program sets a high standard for our profession and provides an important signal to practitioners, funders, and users of occupational therapy services about what the profession considers the foundation for safe and effective practice.

In addition, the OTA mental health endorsement program provides access to mental health funding through Medicare, Department of Veteran Affairs, WorkSafe Victoria and more. Endorsement is required to practice under the following:

  • Medicare Better Access to Mental Health initiative
  • Medicare Eating disorder treatment and management plan program
  • Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA) mental health programs

While OTA mental health endorsement is a prerequisite for those funding programs, and our program is designed to align with their capability requirements, each program has its own guidelines which outline the specific services that can be provided. Individual government funding programs also have their own compliance requirements which practitioners must understand and adhere to. If you intend to provide services through other government funding programs - such as the Medicare Better Access initiative or Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA) mental health funding - you should review the requirements for those programs. You can find the link here Allied health professionals - Health and disability - Services Australia

In 2006, the Government introduced the ‘Better Access to Mental Health Care’ (BAMH) initiative, under which General Practitioners, Paediatricians and Private Psychiatrists could refer to suitably qualified and experienced allied health professionals including occupational therapists for the provision of 10 ‘Focussed Psychological Strategies’ sessions in a calendar year under a Mental Health Care Plan. Medicare Australia has further detail about the Better Access initiative compliance requirements which you can find here - Better Access initiative - supporting mental health care - Services Australia and Note MN.7.1 | Medicare Benefits Schedule (health.gov.au).

Medicare Australia requires specific checks and balances. Consequently, occupational therapy inclusion in this initiative requires occupational therapists to hold Occupational Therapy Australia Mental Health Endorsement, should they wish to be considered by Medicare Australia as ‘suitably qualified and experienced allied health professional.’

The BAMH endorsement has been phased out and OTA is no longer accepting BAMH endorsement applications. To apply or re-apply you must go through the new Mental Health Endorsement process.

Medicare Australia requires specific checks and balances for a ‘suitably qualified and experienced allied health professional’ to be eligible for the initiative. Occupational therapy inclusion in this initiative requires occupational therapists to hold Occupational Therapy Australia Mental Health Endorsement, should they wish to be considered by Medicare Australia as ‘suitably qualified and experienced allied health professional.’ Occupational Therapy Australia Mental Health Endorsement is a separate process but aligned with government and other funders of health services requirements.

While OTA is responsible for endorsing mental health practitioners, setting the eligibility and ongoing requirements for endorsement, it is the responsibility of all occupational therapists providing Medicare services to comply with the requirements associated with each funding program. Meeting OTA requirements does not mean that you are complying with requirements associated with Medicare funding programs. Medicare monitors compliance with program requirements and may audit providers of Medicare funded services to ensure that they are providing services in line with the guidelines of the individual program. For more information about Medicare compliance activities, including education about billing, please refer to the Medicare compliance page Better Access initiative - supporting mental health care - Services Australia and Note MN.7.1 | Medicare Benefits Schedule (health.gov.au).

In order to be eligible to provide services under the BAMH Initiative, occupational therapists must hold Occupational Therapy Australia Mental Health Endorsement according to the criteria in force 1 March 2023.

Before applying for Occupational Therapy Mental Health Endorsement note the following:

For a successful application for mental health endorsement applicants must meet the following criteria:

Hold registration to practice as an occupational therapist with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia.

  • Hold current membership with Occupational Therapy Australia.
  • Have at least two years of full-time equivalent supervised mental health experience as a qualified occupational therapist. Example: A practitioner working 2.5 days per week exclusively focused on mental health (0.5 FTE) would need to work for four years to gain the necessary mental health experience. Note: your supervisor does not need to be OTA mental health endorsed, however, needs to be experienced in the relevant area of mental health practice.
  • Have a minimum of six months of full time equivalent supervised mental health experience in the last five years.
  • Have had training and clinical experience in the use of risk assessments (including mental state assessments) and safety planning.
  • Ability to demonstrate the mental health capabilities outlined in the Mental Health Endorsement Application Form. We strongly encourage you to read OTA's Mental Health Capability Framework before embarking on the endorsement application process.

 

A written application to ensure specific checks and balances for a ‘suitably qualified and experienced allied health professional’ is required to be eligible for the initiative. To provide a fair, equitable and transparent process, OTA developed, tested, and refined the endorsement process in collaboration with OTA members. The process enables all parties to demonstrate mental health skills for wider auditing and professional standards with external health organisations. Importantly, while the Occupational Therapy Australia Mental Health Endorsement is a separate process, it is aligned with government and other funders of health services requirements. It is also a transparent process for members to reflect on their practice while holding to internal checks and balances.

In written applications, address the questions clearly by demonstrating your awareness, knowledge base and practical experience in mental health. For instance, in the key capability about mental health legislation, it would be important to highlight specific awareness of relevant mental health legislation for your state, area of practice, and nationally. You may then wish to link this awareness to your experience of this in the workplace, with clear connections to what this means for the clients you see and/or how this might help in your practice. It is important to identify areas of limited skill or experience connecting this to further learning goals.

Occupational therapists need to:

  • Continue to be registered to practice with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia and meet their registration and competency standards. You can find the link here Occupational Therapy Board of Australia - Registration.
  • Focus CPD on Focussed Psychological Strategies/Mental Health (10 hours per year) as part of their broader Occupational Therapy Board of Australia registration requirements.
  • Engage in supervision requirements to maintain endorsement.
  • Maintain Occupational Therapy Australia general membership. You can find the link here Occupational Therapy Australia - Membership (otaus.com.au).

OTA conducts audits to verify ongoing eligibility to be endorsed under its own program and Medicare conducts compliance audits to ensure that practitioners are adhering to funding program guidelines. Importantly, other funders may also conduct audits associated with their own compliance programs.

Our aim is to align the mental health endorsement audit with AHPRA and Medicare guidelines to streamline the process. Consequently, documentation for audit purposes align closely with other compliance programs.

As an endorsed mental health occupational therapist, you are required to undertake activities to develop and maintain your mental health expertise. OTA is required to ensure that all endorsed practitioners adhere to these requirements through regular checks. Endorsed practitioners must undertake 10 hours of mental health specific CPD each year, and, if practicing under Medicare, this must be focused on the therapeutic interventions defined by Medicare as Focused Psychological Strategies (FPS). These CPD activities can contribute to the 20 hours of total CPD each year all occupational therapists are required to complete by the Occupational Therapy Board to maintain registration.

OTA also requires endorsed practitioners to maintain formal supervision arrangements, and to be able to provide details of their supervisor on request. Supervision should generally occur every four to six weeks, though practitioners may benefit from more frequent supervision at early career stages or when developing capability with new client cohorts, mental disorders, or therapeutic interventions. Supervision may include peer supervision.

Practitioners can claim supervision as a component of the 10 hours of FPS CPD, alongside other CPD activities such as formal postgraduate education, workshops, seminars, lectures, journal reading, writing papers, and online training. OTA expects endorsed practitioners to maintain a balance of supervision and formal learning components of their continuing professional development requirements and supervision should not generally comprise more than half of total FPS CPD.

In general, the processing time for applications is approximately 5 to10 weeks, depending on the number being received. Applications are submitted to a panel for assessment and, following this, applicants are then advised of the outcome (successful/not successful), or if further information/clarification may be requested.

There are significant benefits for the occupational therapist and the profession in gaining recognition of our mental health training and skills.

  • Endorsement enables occupational therapists to highlight their additional skill set.
  • Endorsement enables occupational therapists to demonstrate their commitment to setting a high standard of safe and effective clinical practice in mental health to users of occupational therapy services, other practitioners, and funding bodies.
  • Endorsement enables occupational therapists to highlight the occupation lens that we offer within mental health work. This includes our focus on a strengths-based, person-centred, behavioural-oriented, and goal-directed services to improve mental health and wellbeing, and help people access personally relevant and valued roles in life.
  • Endorsement enables occupational therapists to demonstrate the capacity to deliver services to people with common to complex conditions across a range of workplace settings.
  • Endorsement enables occupational therapist to reflect on their practice, identify potential developmental gaps, and for employers, managers, and business owners to consider whether there may be opportunities to expand their own services in order to represent more wholistic mental health practice.

The new OTA Mental Health Endorsement Program recognises mental health occupational therapy expertise and provides access to multiple mental health funding schemes, including Medicare (Focused Psychological Strategies Services by Allied Health Providers / Better Access to Mental Health Program). Those occupational therapists who are currently BAMH endorsed will be transferred to the new Mental Health Endorsement.

 

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