13 April 2021

Government goes back to drawing board for Safe Haven Cafes after ruling out TCH

| Dominic Giannini
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Emma Davidson

Emma Davidson said the government is continuing to work on finding suitable locations for two safe haven cafes. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT Government has ruled out the Canberra Hospital (TCH) as a suitable location for one of two Safe Haven Cafes due to extensive construction works on its campus despite flagging the location last year.

The two cafes, which will provide an alternative to the emergency department for people experiencing mental health concerns or distress, were funded under a COVID-19 mental health package last year.

The location for the first cafe was supposed to be finalised in January this year.

Mental Health Minister Emma Davidson said that the location of the southside cafe needed to be close to public transport and clinical support.

“The ACT Government wants to make sure the Safe Haven Cafés are supported as best as possible so we can really test the pilot in Canberra and learn from it,” Ms Davison said.

“It is why we are co-designing with the community to find the right location and provide the best possible Safe Haven Cafés for our community.

“Openly co-designing with the community means that our initiatives will better address the needs of Canberrans, but sometimes means that plans will evolve and adapt to ensure we deliver the best possible program for the community.”

Preparations have started to identify a suitable location for a Safe Haven Café in Canberra’s north.

Ms Davidson acknowledged that the delay is disappointing for Canberrans searching for appropriate community care when experiencing symptoms that are not severe enough to present to the ED but exceed the capacity of some community service organisations.

“I appreciate that the community is patiently waiting for the location of the proposal Canberra Hospital cafe to be announced and that lack of suitable locations on-site is disappointing,” she said.

“But the ACT Government remains committed to trial Safe Haven Cafés, and is working diligently with the ACT Safe Haven Café Steering Group to explore alternative locations to ensure the pilot really tests the model in Canberra.”

While a greater focus is being put on community healthcare to help lessen the burden on Canberra’s emergency departments, the ACT Government also opened the refurbished 10-bed mental health unit at the former Brian Hennessy Rehabilitation Centre in Bruce.

READ MORE Signs of hope but figures show ACT hospitals still struggling

Now known as the Extended Care Unit, the facility will help patients transition back into their community following inpatient mental health care.

The unit was also given the name Gawanggal by Ngunnawal elders, which means ‘honey’.

The centre will allow Canberrans between 18 and 65 who are experiencing severe or enduring mental illness to undertake day-to-day activities like shopping, cooking and managing their finances with support.

Ms Davidson said the centre would provide the middle ground between inpatient rehabilitation centres and the demands of daily life upon release.

“For some people, the activities of day-to-day life … can be challenging and that’s where this accommodation will make a difference,” she said.

The ACT Government said it would fund an additional 10 beds for the rehab centre within this parliamentary term.

The refurbishment cost $5.6 million, with the allocation coming from the ACT’s 2018-19 budget.

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“Co-designing with the community.” I thought I had heard all the management jargon but that’s a new one on me.

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