Natural disaster funding : a submission by the Australian Psychological Society to the Productivity Commission
reportposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by S Burke, H Gridley, J Reser, Kevin RonanKevin Ronan, J Kenardy
Executive Summary and Recommendations: Prevention and preparedness are crucially important considerations in determining natural disaster funding priorities and are capable of having much greater magnitude of influence and cost effectiveness compared to emergency response and recovery. Natural disaster funding also needs to include psychosocial recovery, which is an essential component of restoring individuals’ and communities’ mental health and wellbeing. Natural disasters will almost always overwhelm existing psychosocial services, and Federal funding is needed to augment services to meet increased demand. The APS makes the following recommendations in relation to the Inquiry: Recommendation: Preventive and preparedness initiatives are crucial Preventive and preparedness initiatives are a crucial funding priority. These initiatives equip a community to protect itself from a future disaster, reduce the impact of an event on individuals and communities, hasten the recovery, and have a much greater magnitude of influence and effectiveness than initiatives that come after the disaster. From a psychological perspective, these initiatives would include a host of risk reduction initiatives, including behavioural risk reduction strategies, improved warning systems and public messaging, community disaster preparedness education programs, psychological and household preparedness, psychological first aid, as well as thorough evaluation of program effectiveness so that evidence-based best practices are prioritised. Recommendation: Psychosocial recovery models need to be 3-tiered, flexible, integrated and local Funding a 3-tiered model of psychosocial care is critical to cost-effective funding options as it directs the majority of an affected population to the least expensive, population-based assistance which is likely to meet their needs, and reduces the demands on primary and specialist mental health care resources. Funding mechanisms for identifying mental health risk and need in a timely way throughout the population impacted by disaster are essential. This enables rapid mental health triage so that people at high risk can be rapidly matched to brief, evidence-based care. The use of these triage systems for mental health enables rational allocation of limited resources. Psychosocial recovery funding needs to be provided to local leaders in disaster-affected regions so that they can develop an integrated system of psychosocial and mental health care for disaster recovery tailored to their particular area. This funding can also be used to provide additional training in levels 1, 2 and 3 psychosocial care to saturate the workforce and bolster the existing pathways of care. Funding of a centralised, non-governmental agency designed to promote excellence in psychosocial recovery would improve the quality, consistency, and coordination of psychosocial responses to disasters in Australia. Local leaders in a disaster-affected area could consult with this agency for support in planning, designing, administering and implementing large-scale psychosocial recovery programs, without having to reinvent the wheel each time a disaster affects a different area.