Mental Health Response to Natural Disasters and Trauma

Important, new initiative available to health practitioners seeking additional support for patients whose mental health has been impacted by the 2019/20 bushfires.

Mental Health Response to Bushfire Trauma

The Commonwealth government has announced $76 million funding as part of a Mental Health Response to Bushfire Trauma for individuals, frontline workers and communities affected by the recent bushfires. This funding is directed to the 12 PHNs that were directly affected by the fires, to implement assistance such as counselling, trauma response co-ordination, recovery grants, additional headspace centres and additional mental health services.

As western Victoria has not been directly affected by the 2019/20 bushfires,  WVPHN did not receive additional funding for the above-mentioned services.

However, there may be individuals and communities outside the directly affected areas who may be impacted by the bushfires. Impacts could include reduced air quality due to smoke; increased number of people visiting or needing to be accommodated in other jurisdictions who were displaced due to the bushfires; or people seeking mental health support in another PHN region

New Psychological Therapy Services program

Western Victoria PHN (WVPHN) has  added an additional psychological therapy services program – Natural Disaster Distress and Trauma – for people affected by the fires.

This service provides up to ten sessions of Trauma Informed Care for individuals and their families who:

  • May have been holidaying, visiting or assisting in one of the bushfire-affected regions
  • May have had family residing or visiting one of the bushfire-affected regions
  • May experience a range of trauma triggered as a consequence of previous bushfires in western Victoria
  • May be vicariously impacted as a consequence to anyone one of the above type scenarios.

People seeking assistance do not need a GP mental health treatment plan, diagnosis or K10 to access these services.

To refer patients to this program, general practitioners, PHN-contracted allied health providers and community service providers need to download the latest version of the referral form (available from the Psychological Therapy Services page)

Please note:

  • Treating health practitioners, credentialed mental health professionals providing PTS services through a contracted PTS provider, and community organisations facilitating access to PTS services wishing to refer a person affected by the 2019/20 bushfires, must mark the ‘Natural Disaster Distress and Trauma’ box to note the stream of services requested and complete the minimum data required for registering the person for treatment.
  • Then fax the completed referral form to 1300 260 814 to enable registration and allocation to an appropriate provider.

New Better Access services

The Commonwealth government has introduced a range of Medicare rebated counselling and psychological support for people through the Better Access initiative. These services are rebated through the following MBS items:

Health professional Face-to-face services Telehealth services
General practitioner 91721, 91723, 91725, 91727 91729, 91731
Medical practitioner 91283, 91285, 91286, 91287 91371, 91372
Clinical psychologist 91000, 91005, 91010, 91015 91001, 91011
Registered psychologist 91100, 91105, 91110, 91115 91101, 91111
Occupational therapist 91125, 91130, 91135, 91140 91126, 91136
Social worker 91150, 91155, 91160, 91165 91151, 91161

Other resources

‘Self-help’ resources that may be helpful for people in need that can be accessed via Life in Mind Australia

Last modified: 7 February, 2020