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Labor Calls For Increased Mental Health Support In Bushfire-Ravaged Areas

Anthony Albanese and Chris Bowen have called on the government to lift the cap on the number of mental health consultations allowed under Medicare for those in bushfire-affected areas.

The Federal Opposition Leader and the Shadow Minister for Health released a joint statement on Thursday calling for a national health response to the unprecedented bushfires.

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Labor has called on the government to ensure bushfire-affected areas have access to medical and mental health care.

One of the suggestions made is to lift the Medicare cap on mental health consultations. Medicare currently provides 10 free mental health consultations.

NSW Rural Fire Service crews fight the Gospers Mountain Fire as it impacts property at Bilpin, December 21, 2019. Image: AAP

Albanese and Bowen have also called for the mental health of children and first responders to be prioritised by;

"Funding states to provide counsellors and resources to children and families in bushfire-affected areas when school returns," they suggested.

"Working with states to implement the recommendations of a recent Senate inquiry on the mental health of first responders, including volunteers."

One of the Labor's suggestions is for states to deploy trauma counsellors and other mental health providers to bushfire-affected areas.

On Thursday, the NSW Government announced it would be deploying teams of mental health clinicians to support people in those regions.

Specialist bushfire recovery clinicians will be working across NSW to support  individuals, carers and families, said Bronnie Taylor, NSW Minister for Mental Health.

“We are delivering mental health support where and when it is needed most and we will be there for as long as it takes to help people recover from the devastating bushfires,” she said.

“We want to ensure people in bushfire-affected communities can access appropriate and timely services to help with their mental health and wellbeing."

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These clinicians will be easily identifiable by their fluorescent vests when working in the field.

They are part of the Disaster Welfare Services that are already being provided at evacuation centres.

The Disaster Welfare Assistance Line can be reached at 1800 018 444 for counselling support.

More help can be accessed via:

  • NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511
  • Lifeline on 131114
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
  • Mensline on 1300 789 978
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800