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Annual Report 2022/23

Initial Assessment and Referral (IAR) Decision Support Tool (DST)

In the 2021-22 Budget, the Australian Government announced funding to expand and implement the Initial Assessment and Referral Decision Support Tool (IAR-DST) for mental healthcare nationally. In July 2022, CESPHN recruited two roles to support the implementation of the IAR-DST in the region, a Project Coordinator and a Training and Support Officer.

Key activities of the IAR project team for the 2022-23 financial year

  • Development and submission of a comprehensive Implementation Plan, including a marketing and communications strategy
  • Establishment of the IAR-DST Working Group with representation from all teams with CESPHN, HealthPathways, local GPs, and people with lived experience of mental health service use to provide regular guidance and input on the implementation of the IAR-DST training across our region.
  • Commencement of training sessions for GPs and other mental health clinicians within CEPSHN
  • Engagement with external stakeholders, namely the LHDs and LHNs, to raise awareness of the IAR-DST implementation and discuss how the tool may impact referrals into and from the hospital system into primary care services.

PHNs nationally were provided with a GP training target by the Department of Health and Aged Care based on the number of GPs within each region. In the 2022/23 FY, a total of 337 people completed training within the CESPHN region with 307 of those being GPs..

Numbers of IAR-DST Training participants 2022-23

IAR-DST Training involves a 2-hour workshop covering background theory to stepped care and the decision support tool. This is followed by an interactive activity taking participants though a case study and practical use of the tool. The training has been approved as an RACGP activity, attracting CPD hours within the categories ‘Educational Activities’ and ‘Reviewing Performance’. Post-workshop evaluations and 3-month follow up surveys have yielded significant data on the experience of training itself and potential utility of the IAR-DST in clinical practice. Overall, evaluation data suggests support for the value of the tool, however there are consistent concerns around the time it takes to complete, lack of digital integration to date and access to mental health services. As a result of this feedback, the CESPHN IAR team commenced the development of a comprehensive mental health services directory, to support referrers find the most suitable services for their clients/patients based on the recommended IAR-DST level of care.

“This is a really excellent initiative to try (and) standardise and remove doubt about care pathways."

“The tool is good ... accessing the services is still an issue!”