The ACT Government has indicated the public Adolescent Mental Health Unit will be completed in September 2022 after a parliamentary committee report recommended the government release a more concrete timeline for the project.
The in-patient unit, which is part of the $50 million Centenary Hospital for Women and Children expansion, will have six beds with the capacity to expand to eight during periods of high demand to treat adolescents aged between 12 and 17. One nurse for every two patients in the ward has been proposed.
“It is important to note there is only a very small number of children – 17 years and below – who require admission into inpatient settings, and the preference is to provide support in the community as this is a more therapeutic environment for recovery,” said ACT Minister for Mental Health Shane Rattenbury.
“We are very focused on boosting services around young people so they can be supported before they reach a crisis point.”
The committee also recommended the ACT Government expedite the construction of an inpatient eating disorder clinic, with construction set to commence in 2021-2022.
The ACT Government has received a $13.5 million commitment from the Commonwealth to establish a community-based Residential Eating Disorder Treatment Centre, which is based on a Queensland model although negotiations over its arrangements are still ongoing.
The lack of specialised support in the ACT was described as “far from satisfactory” as only one psychiatrist who is child and adolescent trained works at the eating disorders clinical service in Woden, just one day a week.
“Unless you have a psych who is particularly interested in eating disorders and support around that, it is very difficult to get specialised support, unless you have money to pay for a dietitian,” one young person who required help for an eating disorder told the inquiry.
The more definite timeline for the building project was revealed the week before changes to the Mental Health Act – which will increase the threshold for police and paramedics to detain someone they believe has a mental illness and is likely to inflict serious harm – were debated in the ACT Legislative Assembly.
There were more than 2000 emergency apprehensions for people with mental health in 2018-2019, a 60 per cent increase from the previous year. More than half of the apprehensions were by paramedics.
ACT Health said updated figures for the 2019-2020 financial year would be released in its annual report, normally handed down towards the end of the year.