The devastating 2019-20 Australian bushfires continue to rage on, with at least 28 recorded deaths nationally. Hundreds of structures have been destroyed and millions of animals and livestock have perished. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight, with experts warning the fires could could continue for months.
Thousands of Australians have been evacuated from their homes and displaced due to the severity of the fires, with many experiencing unforgettable death, destruction and loss.
In response, the Australian government has pledged $76 million dollars to assist with treating the emotional trauma these fires have caused. The 'mental health package' will ensure firefighters and residents in fire affected communities have increased access to free psychological services.
Almost $30m of the total funding will go directly to boosting telehealth services and increasing the amount of free psychological therapy sessions bushfire-affected people can access through Medicare. To make these items more accessible, patients will not require a mental health plan from a GP or a diagnosed illness. The item numbers are in effect from 17th January 2020 until 31st December 2021.
In addition, if you are a psychologist or a GP, social worker or occupational therapist with Focussed Psychological Strategies training, we urge you to consider the accessibility of your services. Spread the word about these new item numbers or even consider offering additional sessions at a lower cost to bushfire-affected patients.
If you do not currently have Focussed Psychological Strategy training, consider adding it to your professional development. Doing so will allow those affected to access 10 Medicare funded psychological sessions with you, under the Better Access Scheme.
For more details about the allocation of this funding, click here.
If you are wondering how else you can contribute to helping Australians heal from this crisis, click here.