Initial Assessment and Referral

National initiative from the Department of Health

IAR-DST aims to build a common language relating to mental health services or treatments an individual might require

The Initial Assessment and Referral (IAR) is a national initiative from the Department of Health on establishing effective systems for the initial assessment and referral of individuals presenting with mental health conditions in primary health care settings. Each PHN has an IAR Training and Support Officer to provide training to General Practitioners and clinicians in their catchment to learn about, use and embed the IAR Decision Support Tool (IAR-DST) into clinical practice.

Guided by clinicians’ own assessment and clinical judgement, the IAR-DST provides a consistent framework to deliberate decisions when matching a person’s mental health needs with the right level of service intensity, at the right time. National widespread use of the IAR-DST aims to build a common language across the mental health sector about treatment needs based on the person-centred and evidence-based stepped care approach.

Benefits of the IAR-DST

1. Consistent and transparent referrals
The IAR-DST provides a standardised framework for referrers to communicate assessment and referral information consistently, and articulate treatment needs using a language commonly understood across the sector. Widespread use of the IAR-DST improves awareness and transparency of how decisions about the appropriateness of referrals are made.

2. Improved patient outcomes
Effective communication of a consumer’s circumstances will ensure that they are matched to the most appropriate service for their needs, minimise the risks and liabilities associated with under-estimating a person’s treatment needs. Moreover, this can reduce frustration and save time in managing rejected referrals, meaning more patients receive the right care at the right time.

3. Supported decision making
Referrers can use the tool to guide the discussion about treatment options with consumers, with the flexibility to adjust treatment needs in response to changes in their circumstances Studies have shown that when consumers are involved in the decision process, they are empowered and more likely to adhere to care.

4. Streamlined referral process
Integration of the IAR-DST within existing primary systems and mapping of available services to each level of care will streamline decision-making processes and reduce overall administrative load

How IAR Works

Eight holistic domains

The IAR-DST is used to alongside a usual mental health assessment to gather information from the consumer. The tool considers 8 holistic domains that are important for referral decision making in mental health, including:

  1. Symptom Severity and Distress
  2. Risk of Harm
  3. Functioning
  4. Impact of Co-Existing Conditions
  5. Treatment and Recovery History
  6. Social and Environmental Stressors
  7. Family and Other Support
  8. Engagement and Motivation
Initial Assessment and Referral Decision Support Tool

Access the Initial Assessment and Referral Decision Support Tool


Why GPs are important in mental health

For most Australians, a general practice is the first port of call when they access Australian’s healthcare system, and their general practitioner (GP) is usually the first person they consult about their mental health care. In 2020-21, almost 13% of Australians aged 16-85 saw a GP for their mental health. In 2019-20, approximately 30% of Medicare-subsidised services specific to mental health were provided by GPs.

In a recent report, GPs reported – for the sixth consecutive year- that psychological conditions (including sleep disturbance and depression) were the most commonly reported reasons for patient presentations. This is why GPs would benefit from skills and knowledge to identify and address patient’s mental health needs.

IAR Workshop

A $300 once-off incentive payment is available per GP and 2 CPD Hours apply

Who is eligible?

Payment is available to GPs, GP Registrars, and those currently undertaking GP Observership. Payment is not available to other medical staff, clinicians or GPs working in Adult Mental Health Centres or Aboriginal Medical Services already funded by the Government.
Two hours of training is available to assist GPs and Registrars in implementing the IAR tool into their daily practice.

Option 1: Workshop 1 and Workshop 2 are delivered in 2 parts.

Workshop 1

  • Introduction and learning outcomes
  • IAR background
  • Initial Assessment Domains
  • Introduction to the Decision Support Tool

This national online webinar runs for 30-minutes and is a pre-requisite for enrolment in Workshop Two.

Workshop 2

  • Using the Decision Support Tool
  • Practice activity
  • Discussion and reflection from groups
  • Check-in, supported decision making, care preferences, care type
  • Overview of adaptations for different population groups

This 90-minute workshop can be held at your general practice or online. Workshop 1 must be completed within six-months prior to undertaking this workshop.

Option 2: Workshop 1 and Workshop 2 are delivered together by the IAR Training and Support Officer over a 2-hour period.

The format of Option 2 workshops is like Option 1. This workshop can be held at your general practice or online.

Option 3: GPs and Registrars can choose to attend the National Training

IAR for Mental Healthcare delivered by Jenni Campbell (National Project Manager). It is a 2.5 hour workshop delivered online on a weekly basis. To register for this option, click here

Book the Initial Assessment and Referral workshop for your practice

Book Here

Workshops will be delivered at your practice or via Webex. Minumum of three participants required. You can choose to attend a full two hour session or two one hour sessions. Workshop is not confirmed until you have received an email confirmation from the trainer.

Contact Us

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is IAR-DST?The Initial Assessment and Referral (IAR) is an initiative by the Department of Health on establishing effective systems for the initial assessment and referral of individuals presenting with mental health conditions in primary health care settings. You can view the Guidance of this initiative here.
The IAR Decision Support Tool (IAR-DST or DST) is a decision support aid to assist clinicians in matching a person's mental health treatment needs with the right level of service intensity, which you can view here:
How long does the IAR-DST take to complete?Following a comprehensive mental health assessment, filling out the IAR-DST takes approximately 2-3 minutes for frequent users and 5-10 minutes for infrequent users.
Who can do the training?
We welcome everyone from the mental health workforce to attend the training and learn about IAR. Specific guidance on which clinician groups should complete the initial assessment and how to engage peer workers, youth workers, and workers trained in the delivery of low intensity services to undertake components of the initial assessment is outlined on page 20 of the Guidance, which can be found here.
Should our team do the training together?Some organisations may prefer to complete the training as a team or service to learn together, while others may prefer to register for training alongside other organisations in the open-registration sessions.
What do you receive after the training?Following completion of the training, you will receive:
·         Certificate of attendance (please note, you must participate in the full 2-hour workshop to receive a certificate of attendance)
·         Continued support from the IAR-DST Training Support Officer
·         Access to multi-disciplinary Communities of Practice to support clinicians post-training
·         Key resources and helpful links relevant to IAR-DST.