Government to treat mental health as a ‘physical injury’

By Kyabram Free Press

VICTORIA’S police and ambulance workers will be among the first workers to get early mental health support under a pilot scheme introduced by the Victorian Government.

The 12-month pilot will cost $2.5million and allows Victoria Police and Ambulance Victoria to cover medical expenses like GPs, psychologists and medications while claims are assessed.

‘‘We are going to treat mental health issues as if they are like a physical injury,’’ Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville said.

People who break a leg at work were treated straight away, not forced to wait while claims were processed, and the same would happen for those making mental health claims, she said.

Officers and ambulance staff would be able to access the scheme from next Monday, with other emergency workers able to join the pilot from July 1.

These would include career and volunteer firefighters, State Emergency Services members, public sector nurses and midwives as well as child protection staff.

‘‘Once a worker puts in a claim to their employer that they have a mental issue, they can immediately access support,’’ Ms Neville said.

Police Commissioner Graham Ashton backed the plan and said it would help employees experiencing work-related mental health issues.

‘‘Our people are confronted with distressing and complex circumstances on a daily basis,’’ he said.

It was a ‘‘sad reality’’ many members would experience mental health issues in some way or another throughout their career, he said.

Once a claim was approved, medical treatment and services would be covered through the relevant scheme, such as WorkCover.

If a claim was rejected, the applicant would continue to have expenses covered by the pilot program for up to 13 weeks from the date the claim was submitted.