Update on bushfire response

23 January 2020

The College would like to provide a short update on what is being done to assist communities and support the mental health and wellbeing of those impacted by the fires.

The Government has announced its mental health support package with $76 million of funding over 2 years for immediate, short- and medium-term mental health support for people and communities affected by the bushfires.

Measures include:

  • Up to 10 free distress and trauma counselling sessions available through Primary Health Networks (PHNs).
  • New Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items providing access to an additional 10 psychological therapy sessions (in person or via telehealth) per year through GPs, psychologists and other allied mental health providers. People do not need to have a diagnosed mental health condition, GP referral or mental health treatment plan. People living in residential aged care facilities are also able to access these services.
  • Trauma-informed care training for emergency services personnel.
  • Bushfire Trauma Response Coordinators, to be engaged by PHNs, to coordinate access to mental health services.
  • Development of a cross-jurisdictional mental health framework to prepare for future national disasters.
  • $2.7 million for grants to help communities recover. Small grants of up to $10,000 will be for community-led projects to strengthen social connectedness and peer support as well as initiatives to prevent suicide and identify individuals at risk and will be distributed through PHNs.
  • $5 million from the Medical Research Future Fund is being made available for research into the health effects of bushfires. This includes $2 million for research into the long-term mental health impacts of bushfires on individuals and affected communities.

The Government has also implemented temporary, emergency measures to ensure those affected by the bushfires may continue to receive selected Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medicines without a prescription.

To meet increased demand for mental health services, particularly telehealth, the College will develop and distribute a register of available members to PHNs, the RACGP and rural doctors networks. Members will be contacted about their availability to provide services to those affected by bushfires.

For resources to support bushfire affected communities and the public, visit Life in Mind or Head to Health.