The Federal Government will provide more mental health support services for people impacted by the on-going bushfire disaster.
An initial $76 million will fund free counselling sessions, extra Medicare and tele-health consultations, an expansion of headspace services for young Australians, and community recovery initiatives.
Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester welcomed the extra mental health support for firefighters, emergency personnel, individuals and communities in Gippsland.
“We cannot underestimate the impact these fires have had on our communities, our landscape and our people,” Mr Chester said. “Mental health support is a vital part of helping our communities recover from this disaster.
“I have been touched by how Gippslanders have come together to support and help one another. We will need to continue to look after one another for some time yet, particularly by providing mental health support.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the funding was part of the Federal Government’s comprehensive response to the bushfire crisis.
“I urge people to reach out, get the support they need and check in on loved ones,” Minister Hunt said.
“Our government’s response will help with distress counselling and mental health support for individuals, families and communities, including frontline personnel, impacted by the ongoing bushfire emergency.”
People in bushfire-affected areas can call 180 22 66 for assistance.
The initial $76 million mental health package includes:
- $10.5 million for up to 10 free counselling sessions available immediately for individuals, including emergency services personnel, who have been affected by the bushfires;
- $3.2 million investment to deploy bushfire mental health response coordinators to fire affected areas;
- $29.6 million for additional Medicare-supported psychological treatment sessions and expanded access to mental health care via telehealth for longer-term support;
- an additional $300,000 for headspace sites significantly impacted by fire to ensure young people can get support when they need it;
- $16 million for specialist organisations to provide trauma care services to emergency service workers and their families; and
- $6.9 million for community wellbeing grants and further funding for locally tailored mental health services through Primary Health Networks (PHNs).