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Mental health services in fire-affected communities to receive $76m funding boost

The federal government has announced new funding for immediate mental health services for individuals and communities affected by the ongoing bushfire crisis.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Health Minister Greg Hunt and NDIS Minister Stuart Robert have jointly announced that more mental health support services will be immediately provided to firefighters, emergency personnel, individuals and communities impacted by the ongoing bushfire disaster.

An initial $76 million will fund free counselling sessions, extra Medicare and telehealth consultations, an expansion of headspace services for young Australians, and community recovery initiatives, the PM said.

“These bushfires have been unprecedented in their scale, coverage and duration. They have caused tragic loss of life and physical damage that have scarred our landscape. But as I have witnessed in connecting with people on the ground in fire-affected communities, 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,” Mr Morrison said.

“Working together, we will continue to do whatever is needed to support those Australians affected and traumatised by these terrible bushfires by rebuilding communities and helping people in need to recover.”

Mr Hunt said the funding was part of the 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,” he said.

“Our government’s response will help assist with distress counselling and mental health support for individuals, families and communities, including frontline personnel, impacted by the ongoing bush fire emergency.”

Mr Robert added that Services Australia would put its shoulder to the wheel to help deliver this new level of support to Australians who need it.

“If you’re in a bushfire-affected area, I urge you to call 180 22 66. Staff are working extended hours and will continue to do so as long as necessary,” he said.

The $76 million in funding is to be broken down as follows:

  •         $10.5 million: frontline emergency distress and trauma counselling;
  •         $29.6 million: Medicare rebates for up to 10 psychological therapy sessions;
  •         $7.4 million: funding of up to $300,000 for headspace centres;
  •         $2 million: training in trauma-informed care and psychological first aid for frontline emergency staff;
  •         $16 million: trauma care services for emergency workers;
  •         $3.7 million: bushfire mental health response coordination;
  •         $4.2 million: expansion of mental health services in fire-affected regions; and
  •         $2.7 million: community grants to fund activities to help mental health and healing. 

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