What can emergency workers expect when they contact the Responder Assist clinic hotline?

Responder Assist clinic hotline: 1800 329 191


Responder Assist’s clinical service has been developed for emergency workers in Victoria, including those who are volunteers or who have retired. Emergency workers, or those who form part of an emergency worker’s support network, can contact the service on 1800 329 191 Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm.


The confidential and independent service provides treatment by specialist clinicians trained in working with emergency services personnel who have experienced trauma. Accessing the service is straightforward and those who need help can be referred by the health professional treating them, or an emergency worker can refer themselves.


Dr Andrea Putica, Clinical Psychologist at Phoenix Australia, explains what emergency workers can expect if they contact the service. “We find out why they have come to us and what is going on for them,” says Andrea. “We gain a high-level summary and it’s just an informal conversation – no diagnosis is needed. We also ask about any preferences they may have for treatment, like do they want to see someone face-to-face and do they prefer a male or female clinician.”


The initial assessment takes 20 to 25 minutes and collects key information about the person needing support. During that first point of contact, a brief mental health screen determines if the emergency services worker is at risk so that appropriate support can be quickly arranged if needed.


That initial conversation is also a good time for the emergency worker to ask any questions they might have about the service. So far, most questions have been around waiting times, which change all the time, and costs,” says Andrea. “We explain about funding depending on whether it’s a Workcover claim, or if they are accessing the service privately, or if it is through a Medicare mental health check plan.”


During the initial conversation, it is also made clear that Responder Assist is confidential and independent, even if they have been referred by their employer. Outcomes of the assessment will not be reported back to the organisation they work for.


The Responder Assist service is voluntary and emergency workers using the service can change their minds about whether to take part in treatment at any time.


Based on the information provided during the assessment, Responder Assist allocates a suitable specialist clinician to help the emergency worker. All clinicians who are part of the Responder Assist network are experienced mental health clinicians familiar with emergency services culture and the occupational factors that emergency workers may have to contend with.


That clinician then takes over the emergency worker’s care, either through face-to-face sessions, telehealth or a mix of both,” says Andrea.


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