JAYNIE SEAL, HOST: A new framework to support the mental health of disaster affected communities. Joining me live is Assistant Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, Rural and Regional Health, Emma McBride. Minister, thank you so much for joining us, talk us through the Framework.
EMMA MCBRIDE, ASSISTANT MINISTER: This National Disaster Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework has been developed in consultation with communities with their own lived experience. We know that just in the last 12 months over 350 local council areas have been impacted by a natural disaster and just how critical it is to embed mental health and wellbeing support into that disaster response. So this Framework, which was started after the Black Summer Bushfires, has been developed by the National Mental Health Commission, working with the National Emergency Management Agency to make sure that wherever a national disaster occurs, that everybody can get the right kind of mental health and wellbeing support that they deserve. What was needed was more coordination and also clarity over roles and responsibilities so that when these emergency responses are stood up, the mental health and well being response is embedded into that response, because we know there is a really long tail of distress after national disasters and we want to make sure that we can minimise the risk on people and communities.
SEAL: What kind of mental health support are you looking at?
MCBRIDE: So through this new National Framework, it will depend on the nature of the disaster, the severity of the disaster, and where it occurred. For example, the recent bus tragedy in Greta, in that situation, the Local Police Area Command and the Local Health District, were the agencies that were stood up to coordinate the response. There was also a nearby Recovery Centre, where other resources were deployed from. So depending on the nature of the disaster, or the impact, the right kind of services may be different. What is absolutely critical, is that there is a level of coordination and also a level of consistency to this approach. So wherever that national disaster occurs, and whichever communities are impacted, we know reliably, that they'll get the right kind of support and care that they need.
SEAL: You did mention earlier in this chat that natural disasters are certainly on the increase how much money are you putting him towards this Framework? Looking at the future, more devastations.
MCBRIDE: We have seen right around Australia and in my role as Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health, I've had the privilege of visiting many communities who have been impacted by natural disasters and what makes me feel optimistic is the resilience of communities and how people pull together. But what we need to do is make sure that they've got the right kind of support and scaffolding. So through the Budget, we've invested more than $7 million in those first responders and that is another part of our building resilience in communities. So part of that funding will go to the Black Dog Institute for their National Emergency Workers Support Service, which will mean that first responders who experience PTSD at 39%, twice the rate of the broader population, will be able to get that important psychological support and care. We're also boosting the funding to the Australian Psychological Society's Disaster Response Network, a network of volunteer psychologists, who provide their skills and expertise to help frontline workers in a very proactive way, reaching out to frontline workers in impacted communities, to make sure that their mental health and well being is well supported.
SEAL: What about the feedback you're hearing from other ministers and people that are perhaps requiring this mental health support?
MCBRIDE: We've worked very closely with Minister Watt and with Minister McBain because we know that this is something that is affecting communities right around Australia and we want to make sure that whatever we do is informed by the living experience of people in those communities. So that any policy decisions we make, are informed by their experience to make sure that in the future, reliably people get consistent support and care. We know particularly for national disasters, whether they're natural disasters or mass casualty events, there is often a very long tail of distress and we know that what works best is supporting those communities, building their capacity, making sure they're resilient. That's what we're doing by working across the government and across governments to make sure that there's a level of coordination so that those roles and responsibilities are very clear, and that people get the right support and care when they need it.
SEAL: To another topic Assistant Minister, before entering politics, you were a pharmacist for almost 20 years, on the Central Coast and it's feared hundreds of rural and regional pharmacies could close due to the federal government's changes to dispensing policy. Consumers will be able to purchase up to a 60 day supply as opposed to 30 days. How do you see this working?
MCBRIDE: So this advice on 60 day dispensing was given to the former government and it's advice from the peak body the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which was given to the former government back in 2018 and given to our incoming government. What we know, with cost of living pressures rising, is that the cost of medicines is a big impact on the household budget and we're determined to make sure that Australians can afford their medicines. That is something as a pharmacist, I know, that is absolutely vital. It's good for their health and well being and it reduces the strain on our hospitals and our broader healthcare system. So this 60 day dispensing will mean that 6 million Australians will have more affordable medicines, that's on top of the reduction in the cost of PBS prescriptions that we introduced on the 1st of January, which thousands of Australians have already benefited from and any savings will be reinvested directly into community pharmacy. Because we want to make sure that the pharmacy sector is thriving in every town and city right around Australia.
SEAL: There has been talk of concern of lack of supplies though with this new sort of implementation.
MCBRIDE: From the 1st of July there is a requirement for there to be six months supply of medicines on country, in Australia. All industries were affected by supply chain disruptions through COVID and health was no exception, but we've made those supply chains much more robust, so that we can reliably make sure that people can get the medicines when and where they need them.
SEAL: All right, and I know certainly yesterday and today you were talking about a Regional and Remote Symposium in Canberra. Talk us through what's been happening there.
MCBRIDE: I did speak yesterday morning at their research symposium and that research symposium was looking at translating research into practice and making sure that it's informed by communities so that research isn't just done on them. It's led by them. It's absolutely critical, having worked at a regional hospital, and seeing the unique circumstances that impact people in regional and remote communities. It is absolutely critical that the unique circumstances of people living in regional and remote communities, is properly understood. For those 7 million Australians who live outside of our big cities, and we know the further you live outside of a major centre in Australia, the worse your health outcomes are likely to be. So I was pleased to join this symposium yesterday morning and I know it's running yesterday and today and we are really keen to look at the results of the symposium to make sure that we're translating the best innovation into quality care that it gets from the lab, to the bedside, from the lecture theatre to the clinic, and that's something that I'm so pleased to support and we'll really be looking forward to the outcomes of that symposium.
SEAL: Yeah, we look forward to hearing how it goes today. Thank you so much for your time today Assistant Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, Rural and Regional Health, Emma McBride.
MCBRIDE: Thank you.