Wellbeing support vital for fire-ravaged areas

Wellbeing support vital for fire-ravaged areas

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TIME TO ACT: KI health and wellbeing recovery coordinator Kathy Bald, Health Minister Stephen Wade and KI Health Advisory Council chair Darren Keenan. Photo: SUPPLIED

TIME TO ACT: KI health and wellbeing recovery coordinator Kathy Bald, Health Minister Stephen Wade and KI Health Advisory Council chair Darren Keenan. Photo: SUPPLIED

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While the state government has acknowledged the importance of providing mental health support on Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills in the wake of recent bushfires, the opposition has labelled response efforts "disgraceful", and accused the Liberals of "playing politics with disaster".

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While the state government has acknowledged the importance of providing mental health support on Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills in the wake of recent bushfires, the opposition has labelled response efforts "disgraceful", and accused the Liberals of "playing politics with disaster".

Member for Mawson Leon Bignell said the government had not been present enough on KI since the fires.

"None of the Ministers or the Premier have spent enough time on the island," he said.

"You need to have people on the ground living it, feeling it and listening to those people."

While the state government committed $420 million to mental health support across SA in the 2019-20 state budget, Mr Bignell said the lack of any specific funding allocations following the fires was unacceptable.

"We've got a Premier who thinks that's adequate," he said.

"Spend some time with people, get out and talk to these farmers who are hurting like I've never seen people hurt before, and tell them it's adequate. It's far from adequate."

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Labor has called for an $8m mental health package across two years to support communities devastated by bushfires. The package involves $3m to boost state-run mental health services, $2m for non-government organisations, $1m for mental health support for schools in and near bushfire-affected communities, $1m to boost support for emergency service workers and $1m to establish community wellbeing programs.

"Mental health support comes in different forms and we're going to have to tackle every single response we can to make sure we don't let anyone slip through the cracks," Mr Bignell said.

He urged the state government to improve their response going forward.

"They should have been in there a lot earlier, but at the same time, tomorrow's not too late, so I'd encourage them to put a Minister on the ground for at least the next six weeks to try and get across what's happening, and to put in place some solutions," he said.

Health and Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wade said the state government's response to the bushfires had been "swift", with a health and wellbeing recovery coordinator, Kathy Bald, having being appointed on KI.

"A range of services are being deployed (to bushfire-affected areas), from psychological first-aid at recovery centres to long-term mental health services," he said.

"It is also critical impacted communities are engaged to ask what services they require, rather than imposing solutions on them.

"From concessional loans to rebuilding property, the state government is focused on giving the support the people living in these areas need."

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