Initial Assessment and Referral Decision Support Tool

What is the IAR-DST?

The Initial Assessment and Referral Decision Support Tool is an initial mental health assessment tool for patient referral.


National IAR Guidance and the IAR Decision Support Tool were developed by the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care.


These documents provide:


  • advice relating to initial assessment and intake in mental healthcare
  • a description of evidence-based mental health services by level of intensity
  • criteria to assist with matching an individual to a level of care that is most likely to meet the individual’s treatment needs and recovery goals.


The 8 domains are used in the IAR-DST, and include 4 primary domains and 4 contextual domains. These are used to determine the most appropriate level of care for your patient

  • to assist GPs and mental health care providers across Australia, regardless of their clinical setting
  • to identify the most suitable level of care for patients at a particular point in time, in relation to the 5 levels of care
  • to assist health professionals in making an informed choice for referrals to local mental health services

To find out more about stepped care please click here.


  • creates consistency across services –  when you refer patients to mental health services, they will have a better understanding of the individual needs of your patient
  • provides guidance on what information needs to be captured when making a referral for mental health
  • assists in the decision-making process for patient referral into local services, with the evidence/assurance that these are appropriate and can lead to positive change
  • can be used alongside clinical judgement to ensure that wherever patients are in their recovery journey, they are receiving the most appropriate care


  1. Consistent and transparent referrals


Use of IAR-DST across Australia means a standardised approach to mental health care. This improves awareness and transparency about how referral decisions are made. Referrers can record assessment and referral information consistently which means patients are most likely to receive care suited to their individual needs.


  1. Improved patient outcomes


Effective communication of a patient’s circumstances ensures they receive the most suitable support service. This minimises their time in the primary care system.


  1. Supported decision making


When referrers use IAR-DST alongside their own clinical judgement, they provide individualised treatment options. IAR-DST also provides flexibility to adjust treatment in response to a patient’s changing circumstances.


  1. Streamlined referral process


Integration of IAR-DST within existing primary systems will streamline decision-making processes and reduce overall administrative load.

In order to use the IAR-DST effectively, it is recommended that clinicians attend a 2 hour training workshop hosted by Sydney North Health Network.

Training is suitable for:

  • General Practitioners
  • General Practitioner Registrars
  • Allied mental health clinicians – including psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, mental health nurses etc.
  • Mental health intake workers
  • NSLHD staff
  • Commissioned service providers
  • General Practice staff trained in mental health

As this training is specific to the Northern Sydney region, it is recommended that those currently practicing in other regions reach out to their eligible PHN for suitable training.

General Practitioners, including GP Registrars are eligible for a reimbursement payment of $300.00 exc. GST for their successful completion of training

*Limit and exclusions apply – We encourage enrolment as soon as possible. GP reimbursement places are limited to the first 500 registrations.

*GPs must NOT be primarily working in an organisation who currently receive Commonwealth funding (e.g. headspace sites and Aboriginal Medical Centres)

Current training sessions and information are available here – WEBINAR Training – Initial Assessment and Referral (IAR) for Mental Healthcare – Sydney North Health Network