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People seeking mental health support may present with a range of factors that can make it challenging for health professionals to determine the most appropriate level of care required. 

The Initial Assessment and Referral – Decision Support Tool (IAR-DST) is an aid developed by the Commonwealth Government to provide GPs and clinicians with an estimate of the intensity of the mental health response that a person may need when first seeking mental health support. The IAR-DST complements clinical judgement and provides GPs and mental health clinicians with a standardised, evidence-based approach to providing mental health assessments and care recommendations.  

How it works

The IAR-DST assists general practitioners and clinicians in recommending a level of care for a person seeking mental health support. Each level of care is based on the least intensive and least intrusive evidence-based intervention that will likely lead to the most significant possible gain. 

Guided by practitioner assessment and clinical judgement, the tool provides a consistent way for GPs and clinicians to make decisions when matching a patient’s mental health needs with the right level of service intensity at the right time.  

The IAR-DST will be used nationally by Commonwealth funded mental health services and Victorian mental health and wellbeing local services. This will include most mental health services commissioned by Murray PHN from July 2024.

This will create a common language across the mental health system to communicate about a person’s treatment needs and what level of service intensity a person requires (Level 1: self-management through to Level 5: specialist and acute). 

When using the IAR-DST, a person seeking mental health assistance has their experiences understood in the context of holistic assessment domains. The eight domains help to distil essential assessment information and identify key signals. The eight domains are:

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Widespread use of the IAR-DST aims to improve awareness and consistency of how decisions about the appropriateness of referrals are made across the primary mental healthcare system, articulates treatment needs using language commonly understood across the sector, and reduces the likelihood of rejected referrals to help patients receive the right care, at the right place, and at the right time. 

IAR-DST training 

Murray PHN is delivering group training workshops to assist primary health clinicians understand how to use the IAR-DST. These two-hour workshops are being delivered online or in-person and attract CPD points for GPs and GP registrars. The training workshops cover: 

  • an introduction to the IAR-DST and the development of the National Guidance 
  • the domains, levels of care and using the decision support tool  
  • clinical judgement and supported decision making 
  • practical application of the IAR-DST in assessment settings. 

There is a $300 once-off incentive payment available to GPs and GP registrars who complete the workshop. 

The training is accredited for CPD hours as follows:

  • RACGP – Activity No. 484615, allocated 2 CPD hours (1 Educational Activities hour and 1 Reviewing Performance hour) in the RACGP 2023-25 CPD program.
  • ACRRM – ID: 29124, allocated 2 CPD hours (1 Educational Activities hour and 1 Reviewing Performance hour) in the ACRRM 2023 – 25 CPD program.

Upcoming workshops

Training is offered by Murray PHN and the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Upcoming training dates and registration links are below. New training dates will continue to be added. 

Key resources


For more information or support contact Murray PHN’s Initial Assessment and Referral Training and Support Officer, Louise Scheidl, e: lscheidl@murrayphn.org.au

Last Update: June 6th, 2024