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National Disaster Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework 2021

5.1 Coordination of services

People affected by disasters are confronted by multiple services, offering similar-sounding types of help. To increase communities’ ease of recovery, it is important services and recovery workers are well-equipped and informed with knowledge of the local context and available services. Long-term funding is important to avoid a cycle of new services overwhelming the local system and then leaving abruptly – a ‘fade in, fade out’ approach to allow surge responses to be carefully integrated into the local service system is advisable.

Specific coordination issues arise for individuals and families who need to relocate, cross state borders, or have their pharmaceutical needs met during an emergency.

Good coordination occurs through both formal and informal mechanisms, including:

  • • Locals who become informal ‘system experts’ and then act as referral advisers for others.
  • • Community services which operate flexibly, according to the ‘no wrong door’ principle, so that people only have to interface with one service to access different types of help.
  • • Trusted advisers outside the health sphere such as accountants, stock agents, or veterinarians who become ‘accidental counsellors,’ listening and referring as needed.
  • • Primary health care providers (for example doctors, nurses, community health service staff and pharmacists) who coordinate care for their patients/customers.
  • • Local service networks and inter-agencies that meet regularly to understand the role each service plays in the local ecosystem plays and to strengthen connections between them.
  • • Professional or cross-professional communities of practice who meet to engage with best practice and to foster coordination and quality of support.
  • • Regional recovery officers who help with local coordination and feed intelligence to state and federal agencies so programs can be responsively modified.

The mechanisms below are particular aspects of good coordination that help in a disaster.