Thousands of South Australians needing urgent mental health assistance will now be able to access cutting edge out-of-hospital care, with the doors opened this week at a nation-first mental health centre that is an alternative to a hospital Emergency Department.
The $14m Urgent Mental Health Care Centre (UMHCC) in Adelaide is the first of eight to be opened under a $114.5 million trial funded by the Australian Government.
Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said the Adelaide Urgent Mental Health Care Centre (UMHCC) would give adults access to a range of mental health support services during extended operating hours, from midday to midnight.
“This centre is a genuine alternative to the hospital emergency department. People seeking help, especially in times of crisis, will have access to on-the-spot treatment, advice, and support provided by a variety of mental health professionals,” Minister Hunt said.
“The past year has been challenging for all Australians. The pandemic has led to many people seeking support for their mental health for the first time. Making sure that help is easily accessible and with a welcoming door for people in distress is the aim. The adult mental health centres will address a gap in the mental health system between general practice and hospitals.”
The UMHCC will have extended operating hours, from midday to midnight, which is the peak time of mental health presentation to EDs. It will initially accommodate up to 6 patients at a time, with a maximum capacity of 18 patients by May.
South Australian Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Stephen Wade, officially opened the centre and said the UMHCC delivers on the Marshall Liberal Government’s commitment to provide better services for people with mental health challenges.
“By delivering best practice crisis care, the UMHCC will not only reduce pressure on our EDs, but also reduce the time people seeking urgent help need to wait for care, freeing up hospital space and improving patient flow,” Minister Wade said.
In South Australia, there were more than 25,700 mental health presentations to EDs in metropolitan Adelaide last year. The new centre will focus on the approximately 12,800 mental health consumers who presented to EDs but did not need to be admitted to hospital to have their urgent care needs met.
Not-for-profit organisation Neami National has a long history of delivering mental health supports that are tailored to meet individual and community needs and was selected as the service provider of the UMHCC through an open tender process last year.
Neami will deliver the service in partnership with not-for-profit provider, RI International, international leaders in evidence-based services responding to people experiencing mental health distress and suicidal crises.
Chief Psychiatrist, Dr John Brayley, said that while the centre is the first of its kind in Australia, it is based on an effective ‘living room’ model that RI international has successfully implemented in a number of US cities.
“The design of the new UMHCC will include consultation rooms, and a ‘living room’ environment for people to sit in rather than hospital-style cubicles. There will be mental health peer workers, working alongside a clinical team including nursing, allied, and medical staff to provide high levels of engagement and support to people in crisis,” Dr Brayley said.
Neami National CEO, Tom Dalton, said the UMHCC will aim to demonstrate how new approaches, built on trust and a shared vision, can lead to better outcomes for people in crisis.
“Navigating the extensive range of mental health services available in communities can be challenging, especially in times of acute need,” Mr Dalton said. “More than half of the UMHCC’s multi-disciplinary team will have a lived experience of mental health recovery. The team work together to offer consumers immediate assessment, triage and treatment, and, where necessary, actively communicate with referral services to provide essential information about patient needs before any transfer.
“The centre’s model of care has been co-designed with people who have lived experience of recovery, as well as their family carers and supporters. This will amplify our impact, resulting in a recovery-focused service that will meet the urgent needs of people in Adelaide.
The services on offer at the centre include support and information for individuals, carers and families; psychological therapies; care coordination to help navigate the broader health system and connect to other appropriate services, including psychosocial supports; local outreach to meet the needs of vulnerable groups; specialised suicide prevention follow-up services; culturally safe services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and assistance to manage comorbid substance misuse.
The UMHCC is located at 215 Grenfell Street, Adelaide and is open from 12pm to 12am every day. It will initially be open to referrals from SA Ambulance Service, SA Police and the emergency mental health phone line – the SA Mental Health Triage Service on 13 14 65. Over time the centre will expand to accept walk-in presentations and community referrals.
The seven other centres are expected to open in other jurisdictions by the end of next year.