by GRACE JOHNSON
The Australian Association of Psychologists (AAPi) has welcomed the Senate’s report into the assessment and support services of people with ADHD, released yesterday on November 6.
The report found several barriers to support for people living with ADHD, including lack of access and cost, as well as additional challenges for girls, women, gender-diverse people, First Nations peoples, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Earlier this year, on March 28, the Senate referred an inquiry into the Barriers to consistent, timely and best practice assessment of ADHD and support services for people with ADHD to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee.
The aim of the inquiry was to increase the accessibility of assessment, diagnosis and support services for people with ADHD.
Over one million—or an estimated one in 20—Australians have ADHD. The committee listened to the experiences of many people with ADHD who have not been able to access the healthcare and supports that they need.
Lack of access and high costs
The limited availability of services and high costs, including insufficient coverage under Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and the National Insurance Disability Scheme (NDIS), have created barriers for people with ADHD to assessment, diagnosis and support services.
Amongst the report’s 15 recommendations is the suggestion that the government consider funding and co-designing a National Framework for ADHD, together with people with ADHD as well as ADHD advocacy and community organisations.
AAPi was supportive of the report’s call for national consistency in diagnosis and treatment to improve the lives of those with the condition.
Chief Services Officer Amanda Curran said it was a pivotal report that highlighted the numerous barriers for people with ADHD.
“The report provides a roadmap for systemic and meaningful change for people impacted by ADHD. Now is the time for action, and we urge the Government to accept and action its recommendations,” Ms Curran said.
The report acknowledged the high costs of the current system, which often prevent people with ADHD from receiving an assessment, thus never getting the help they need.
Ms Curran said, “If adequate Medicare rebates were available to support ADHD assessment to occur with a psychologist, this would significantly reduce access barriers and ensure that medications are prescribed safely and only when necessary.”
“Assessment is unaffordable for so many, due to low Medicare rebates and requirements for specialist medical practitioners to refer for assessments and to enable drug prescriptions. This disproportionately affects those in rural and remote regions, First Nations people and those on lower incomes.”
Impacts of undiagnosed ADHD
In their submission, the Australian ADHD Professionals Association (AADPA) noted that the stigma, misdiagnosis and insufficient treatment of ADHD is associated with a wide range of negative impacts on a person’s life, including:
relationship problems, family breakdown, poor academic achievement, increased unemployment, teenage pregnancy, abuse, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance misuse, suicide ideation and completion, accident and injury, criminality and incarceration, physical health problems, and decreased life expectancy.
Unidentified ADHD can have catastrophic effects on a person’s life. Diagnoses and treatment plans are thus essential.
A mother’s submission to the report also noted the benefits of her daughter’s diagnosis.
Late last year, my 8yr old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD … Her high levels of anxiety and perfectionism were enabling her to mask all signs of ADHD at school and often at home. It turned out her IQ was in the 97th percentile and yet she was sitting at the 10th percentile for maths for her age. Her ADHD was inhibiting her ability to meet her high IQ. They did a medication test and said they’d very rarely seen such a huge difference in the before and after of taking ritalin.
Reducing systematic barriers are crucial so that people living with ADHD can get the help they need.
Ms Curran said, “We continue to plead for an increase in the Medicare rebate for all psychologists to $150, and for the introduction of a rebate for provisional psychologists so that more clients impacted by ADHD can afford treatment.”
ADHD Australia has also welcomed the Senate Inquiry.