Initial Assessment and Referral
Decision Support Tool

The Initial Assessment and Referral (IAR) and Decision Support Tool (DST) help general practitioners and clinicians to recommend the most appropriate level of care for a person seeking mental health support.

Online GP training – click here for details

The IAR-DST is an initiative of the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care and brings together information from a range of sources including Australian and international evidence and advice from a range of leading experts. It is part of the wider Head to Health service – Head to Health website, Head to Health phone line and Head to Health centres – which aims to connect people with the right mental health supports first time, free of charge.

The IAR-DST is designed to assist the various parties involved in the assessment and referral process, including:

  • GPs and other clinicians seeking to determine the most appropriate care type and intensity for individuals.
  • Service providers, intake teams and PHNs responsible for undertaking initial assessments which may involve making recommendations on the level of care required.

The Head to Health phone service uses the IAR-DST and all Head to Health mental health clinicians are trained in its use to determine the most appropriate level of care for individuals seeking mental health support. This is helping to create a common language across the mental health sector about patients’ treatment needs and means the patient only has to tell their story once.

Training is also available for GPs in the use of this tool. Designed to complement the GP or clinician’s clinical judgement, IAR-DST is best used as part of a comprehensive mental health assessment.

One referral is all the GP needs to make as, once the patient is accepted into the Head to Health system, they are connected to the most appropriate services and supports.

Find out more and book into a training session below.


The IAR guidance identifies eight domains that should be considered when determining the next steps in the referral and treatment process for a person seeking mental health support. There are 4 primary assessment domains and 4 contextual domains. Specific criteria are outlined in the guidance for assessing severity across each domain.

Levels of care

The information gathered through the initial assessment domains is used to recommend a service type and intensity (level of care) and inform a referral decision. This process is based on a clinically informed algorithm and is calculated automatically using the digital Decision Support Tool (DST). The levels are differentiated by the amount and scope of resources that are likely to be required.

Online GP training session – two workshops in one online session

WA Primary Health Alliance is providing GPs in Western Australia with paid IAR-DST training covering two workshops in one online session.

GPs and GP registrars who attend the two workshops in the one online session will be remunerated $300* and CPD hours are available. CPD hours and payment apply only upon successful completion of both workshops.

Workshop One

Workshop One runs for 30 minutes. The training topics will include:

  • Introduction to the IAR and the development of the IAR national guidance.
  • Orientation to the domains, levels of care and the DST.

Workshop Two

Workshop Two runs for 90 minutes and includes an interactive training session.

The training topics will include:

  • Application of the IAR in assessment and intake settings (practical group activity using vignettes).
  • Discussion and reflection from groups.
  • Clinical judgement and supported decision making, care preferences and care type.

Upcoming training dates: Workshop One and Two

Minimum attendance numbers required to enable a participatory and collaborative learning environment. Sessions will be cancelled 48 hours before commencement if the minimum number of participants is unmet.

*With the exception of GPs who are already being paid for their time by a Commonwealth funded service (e.g. Adult Mental Health Centre or Aboriginal Medical Centre) or they attend Workshop Two out of hours. Only GPs who attend the full training session are eligible for the remuneration payment, no pro rata payments can be made.

For further information, contact the training support officers by emailing


While the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care has contributed to the funding of this website, the information on this website does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government and is not advice that is provided, or information that is endorsed, by the Australian Government. The Australian Government is not responsible in negligence or otherwise for any injury, loss or damage however arising from the use of or reliance on the information provided on this website.