More mental health support for Vic emergency workers

Friday, 14 September, 2018

More mental health support for Vic emergency workers

If re-elected, the Labor Victorian Government will provide emergency workers with provisional acceptance payments for mental health injuries.

This will enable emergency workers to access mental health support at the moment they need it.

Changes to the WorkCover system will be informed through a 12-month pilot ahead of an expanded rollout, which will see provisional acceptance payments for mental health claims available for every Victorian worker within two years.

First responders are exposed to trauma every single day, with emergency workers including paramedics, police and firefighters six times more likely to suffer serious and debilitating mental illness.

“Our first responders can witness and experience the most unimaginable trauma,” said Premier Daniel Andrews.

“Sometimes these kinds of injuries can go untreated for years, even decades. It means, when our emergency workers do put their hand up for help, we need to be there.”

Under the current system, these workers have to wait for their WorkCover claim to be assessed before they can access financial support to cover the cost of medical expenses.

Recognising that the heavy toll of trauma can manifest in many ways — from PTSD to panic disorders to anxiety — this reform will cover any mental injury sustained by paramedics, police, Protective Services Officers (PSOs), firefighters and SES workers in the course of duty. Under the new plan there will be no monetary cap.

“Our paramedics are on the frontline caring for the people we love. But right now, when it comes to making sure they get that same care themselves, too many are left struggling,” said Minister for Health Jill Hennessy.

The government will also create a new Centre of Excellence for Emergency Worker Mental Health to make sure Victoria’s emergency workers get the very best support and services.

The centre, the first of its kind in Victoria, will be established alongside founding partner beyondblue, and will be dedicated to making sure our health professionals have the skills they need to provide support for emergency workers, including undertaking groundbreaking research.

As part of the initial 12-month pilot for emergency workers, further work will be done to examine ways the WorkCover system can be improved for workers suffering from mental illness and consultation on options to widen the pilot to potentially include other workers such as nurses, child protection staff, corrections and youth justice officers, and forest firefighters will be undertaken before the end of 2018.

Labor will also invest $6 million to create a Specialist Network of Clinicians, helping to put emergency workers in touch with expert health professionals even sooner. Additional funding will be provided for emergency workers to access specialist mental health services.

A further $6 million will go towards an Early Intervention and Prevention Fund to help Victoria Police create and expand on-the-ground mental health support for its staff.

“These reforms and the new centre of excellence will make sure the mental health of police and PSOs is first and foremost,” said Minister for Police Lisa Neville.

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