Harry Lovelock
Senior Manager, Strategic Policy and Liaison
National Office

The APS is continuing to support survivors of the devastating Black Saturday Victorian bushfires through the development, coordination and delivery of education and training to mental health clinicians, and provision of clinical support to Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) providers in the fire-affected Divisions of General Practice. The education and training program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and has been developed in conjunction with the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, and involves three levels of training.

The roll-out of Level 2 training in Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR) is now completed with an additional two workshops being run for members of the APS Disaster Response Network. A total of 27 workshops have now been held to train clinicians in the use of SPR, which draws on the briefest but most effective evidence-based approaches to supporting recovery. Additional workshops may be considered if demand remains high. Evaluation of the SPR workshops indicates that over 90 per cent of participants reported that the information provided was relevant to their work, that they were confident in administering SPR, that they were motivated to apply their knowledge of SPR to their clinical work, and that they would pass on the information learned or recommend the training to colleagues.

The Level 3 training - Psychological Treatment of Common Mental Health Problems in Adults after Trauma and Disaster - and a child and adolescent version are in the process of being implemented for clinicians located in the five fire-affected Divisions of General Practice. This training is designed to up-skill clinicians treating people who have developed significant trauma-related mental health conditions, predominantly PTSD, depression, complicated grief, anxiety and substance abuse.

Community-based Level 1 training, Psychological First Aid, is being implemented by beyondblue throughout the fire-affected regions.

Bushfire Psychological Counselling Voucher Program 

The Victorian Government Department of Human Services (DHS) has recently announced a new program for people affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires. The Bushfire Psychological Counselling Voucher Program has been developed through a $3.5 million gift from the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund that was financed by donations provided by members of the public. The Voucher Program aims to assist people directly affected by the 2009 Victorian Bushfires to access both individual and family psychological support. The program provides six vouchers for psychological counselling to each eligible individual (including dependant children over five years of age) who has been directly affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires. The program commenced on 10 August 2009 and will continue for two years.

Health professionals eligible to provide services under this program include psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists registered as Medicare providers under the Commonwealth Government's Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative. People using this service do NOT need to have a mental health care plan, or a referral from a GP or a significant mental health problem. To access the program, people directly affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires need to submit a short application form to DHS, and will be sent the vouchers once the application has been processed. At the time of writing, 618 applications from people affected by the bushfires have been approved. While the program is funded primarily for people residing in Victoria, those who have relocated since the bushfires can still use the voucher interstate. A copy of the voucher is seen here.

Each voucher is redeemable for one hour of psychological counselling accessed directly from an eligible service provider. Service providers receive reimbursement of $100 for each session of psychological counselling provided under the program (no additional co-payment can be requested from clients).

Full details of the new program, including client eligibility, services to be provided, the processes for accessing services and reimbursement of service providers, can be found on the APS website at www.psychology.org.au/medicare/bushfire_program or from the Victorian Government website (www.dhs.vic.gov.au/bushfireappeal/Fund-Payments/support-payments/psychological-support-package).



InPsych October 2009