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January 12, 2020 by ELIZA LASCHON | ABC News

Bushfire support from Federal Government with $76 million for mental health services for victims

PHOTO It has been an emotional time for many people across Australia, particularly those directly affected. AAP: JULIAN SMITH

Communities devastated by this summer’s record-breaking fire season will have immediate access to increased mental health services.

The Federal Government has committed $76 million for free counselling sessions, extra Medicare and tele-health consultations and the expansion of headspace.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “These bushfires have been unprecedented in their scale, coverage and duration.

“They have also taken a traumatic emotional toll on our people. We need to ensure the trauma and mental health needs of our people are supported in a way like we never have before.”

The Government will spend $10.5 million on providing those affected with 10 free counselling sessions and $3.2 million will go towards deploying bushfire mental health response coordinators.

Medicare rebates will also be available for up to 10 psychological therapy sessions.

Frowning Scott Morrison headshot.

PHOTO The Prime Minister acknowledged this season’s “unprecedented” fires. ABC NEWS: ELIZA LASCHON

Health Minister Greg Hunt said: “We know that trauma and tragedy are deeply linked with mental health impacts and what we’re seeing now is that people are in the early phases of recovery and response.

“Initial early treatment for mental health can make a very significant long-term difference.

Mr Hunt said additional counsellors had already been sent to bushfire-affected zones.

“We are sending out counsellors as we speak through the Services Australia programs,” he said.

“Some of these teams are already on the ground.

“As of the most recent briefing we had 10 teams on the ground there in different communities.”

Mr Hunt said the Government had “cut through all of the bureaucracy” to ensure anyone within the communities in need of support, received it.

Red Cross worker and woman stand in burnt down home

PHOTO The funds will help ensure anyone within the communities in need of support can access it. SUPPLIED: RED CROSS AUSTRALIA

“These services are available to anybody who has been in the bushfire-affected zone,” he said.

“Residents, farmers, young, old, small business, communities, people who were visiting and faced the horrors of the fires.

“The volunteers and emergency service and medical personnel who have been so heroic in supporting people within the fire affected areas, everybody is included.

“It could be a farmer who’s been affected by the agony of having to euthanase livestock that have been bushfire affected.

“It could be a family that has seen young children confronted by the horror of fire, it could be an emergency service personnel … or it could be a visitor to an area.”

The Commonwealth funding comes from the $2 billion pool of money the Morrison Government pledged earlier this week to help rebuild devastated areas.

Other areas the $76 million in funding would be spent on include:

  • $300,000 to each of 10 headspace centres in areas with significant fire impacts, plus an expansion and expedited funding for the planned Bateman’s Bay centre, totalling $7.4 million
  • $16 million for organisations to provide trauma care services, including for PTSD in emergency service workers and their families
  • $2.7 million for community grants, each up to $10,000, to fund grass-roots activities assisting mental health

For access to support services, contact Services Australia on 180 22 66 or visit the Primary Health Networks website.

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