Victoria expedites mental health support for injured workers

Wednesday, 14 July, 2021

Victoria expedites mental health support for injured workers

New laws enacted by the Victorian Government will help Victorians who suffer a work-related mental injury access treatment and support as soon as they need it. Under the new laws, anyone seeking compensation for a mental injury in a workplace may be entitled to provisional payments to cover reasonable medical expenses while they await the outcome of their claim. The Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Provisional Payments) Act 2021 will help ensure workers can access care faster.

The change will ensure eligible workers and volunteers no longer have to choose between delaying critical care or facing out-of-pocket costs for GP visits, psychologist of psychiatrist appointments and medication. Provisional payments will be provided for up to 13 weeks, giving workers immediate support, whether a claim is accepted or not. Providing better support is important, as mental injury claims are often complex and can take an average of 20 days longer to determine than physical injury claims, the state government said.

The scheme is an expansion of a successful pilot providing provisional payments to police and emergency services workers and volunteers, who were included in the pilot in recognition of the significant mental stress they face in the workplace. They are more likely to suffer serious and debilitating mental illness. Participants accessing the pilot reported that they were more likely to seek early treatment for their mental injury because of the provisional payments pilot program.

Victorian Minister for Workplace Safety Ingrid Stitt noted that with more workers seeking help for mental injuries, it’s vital to remove barriers that prevent them from accessing treatment and services as soon as they need them. “We know that giving workers who suffer a mental injury the support and care they need early increases their chances of recovery and a successful return to work,” Minister Stitt said.

The Victorian Government is also developing new regulations to strengthen the occupational health and safety framework, to provide clearer guidance to employers about their obligations to protect workers from mental injury. This complements the state government’s broader priority to ensure Victorians get the mental health support they deserve — with the Victorian Budget 2021–22 investing in building a new mental health system from the ground up, following a Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

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