16 December 2022

Early intervention eating disorder support service to launch early next year

| Lottie Twyford
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Emma Davidson, MLA.

Mental Health Minister Emma Davidson says the tender has been awarded for an early intervention eating disorder service. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

An early intervention service for people with eating disorders will open in the Territory early next year.

The lack of services available for the estimated 17,000 Canberrans who are believed to suffer from an ED has been a long-running issue and work has been underway to increase the support available.

It’s hoped the almost $500,000-a-year service will be able to provide treatment to people who are in the early stages of a disorder, thereby reducing demand at the acute end of the system.

The service will be run by CatholicCare. The Federal and Territory governments will each fund $230,000 for the next four years at least.

It’s hoped people who are beginning to develop an eating disorder will also be able to seek help here.

CatholicCare CEO Anne Kirwan said the model of care provided through the service would be wraparound and seek to support the person’s entire family.

“The focus is early intervention because the research says the earlier you can get people in for support, the better the outcomes are,” Ms Kirwan said.

She said people seeking help could expect to receive treatment from the same clinician who would “walk along the same journey” with them.

READ ALSO Gaps in children’s eating disorder treatment all too painful for this family

Mental Health Minister Emma Davidson said the evidence showed only five to 15 per cent of people with eating disorders actually sought help and accessed treatment for it.

Those who did often waited for between four and 10 years after the onset of the disorder which meant they required more intensive specialist support.

She said the government had wanted to fund a service like this for a long time.

“It will make a real difference to many people. If people seek care sooner, they will be in recovery for longer and will get better sooner,” Ms Davidson said.

“This will add to the whole range of services we have available in the ACT which can be accessed through the Eating Disorders Clinical Hub.”

That hub – which is a central intake point to connect people battling eating disorders to support services – has been running since January this year.

READ ALSO Another Canberra family speaks out about child’s ‘traumatic’ eating disorder treatment

A lack of inpatient services for people living with eating disorders in the Territory has long been bemoaned, especially as the public specialist outpatient treatment option – the Eating Disorders Program in Phillip – has a months long waitlist.

That long wait means many Canberrans are required to travel interstate to seek support or have to access private options which can be extremely costly and may not always offer best-practice therapy.

Parents have recently spoken to Region about what they see as the missing middle in eating disorder services for children who require hospital admission.

Two mothers both said they felt as though while their child received medical support at the hospital, they did not receive enough psychological support while in hospital and therefore were no “better” upon leaving.

Work is continuing on a residential eating disorder centre.

It’s expected that facility will be open by the end of next year in Coombs.

People can contact the Hub via phone on 02 5124 4326 or by emailing chs.eatingdisordersclinicalhub@act.gov.au.

Anyone in need of support for an eating disorder can also contact The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 334 673 or talk to their GP.

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