New Step Up Step Down mental health facility opens to support Canberra’s southside community

Lottie Twyford 4 May 2021
Emma Davidson and Aunty Roslyn Brown cutting ribbon at opening of Step Up Step Down facility in Garran

ACT Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson and Ngunnawal elder Aunty Roslyn Brown cut the ribbon at the opening of the Step Up Step Down mental health facility in Garran on 30 April. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

A new southside ‘Step Up Step Down’ mental health centre is now welcoming Canberra participants.

Located in the suburb of Garran, the facility opened on Friday, 30 April, with a traditional water cleansing ceremony conducted by Ngunnawal elder Aunty Roslyn Brown.

Aunty Roslyn said she was aware of the worsening state of mental health in Australia, particularly among Indigenous communities, and congratulated those who had been instrumental in the development of the ACT’s new Step Up Step Down centre.

Also in attendance was ACT Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson, who said almost one-third of Canberrans will require mental health support of some kind throughout their lives.

“Everything we experienced last year with the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in demand for mental health services in the region,” she said.

ACT Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson speaking to media

ACT Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson speaking at the opening of the Step Up Step Down mental health facility in Garran on 30 April. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

She said the Step Up Step Down model allows for early intervention as soon as a person becomes mentally unwell, to prevent the need for hospital admissions or acute inpatient services.

The nature of the centre also means people can step down from an inpatient setting as they transition back to community life. People will be free to come and go as they please, unlike a more restrictive inpatient setting.

Participants can stay for up to two weeks as they move between transition points in their care needs.


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At any one time, the Garran centre can house up to six adults ranging in ages 18 to 65.

Ms Davidson said it is important to open such a facility on Canberra’s southside so residents can remain connected to the communities in which they live.

“It’s making sure all of the pieces [of Canberra’s mental health system] fit together that makes it stronger,” she said.

Woden Community Service CEO Jenny Kitchin speaking to media

Woden Community Service CEO Jenny Kitchin speaking at the opening of the Step Up Step Down mental health facility in Garran on 30 April. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

Woden Community Service (WCS) will work closely with the Step Up Step Down centre, providing outreach to participants for up to four weeks after they go home.

WCS CEO Jenny Kitchin said the organisation is proud of its long history and experience providing community outreach support across Canberra.

“We are thrilled to be able to provide this additional Step Up Step Down service to the ACT community,” she said.


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The facility will be managed by Stride Mental Health Limited, a provider of transitional residential mental health and psychosocial services across Australia.

The new facility is the company’s first venture in the ACT, and its acting CEO, Drikus Van der Merwe, said he is proud to work alongside community partners to operate the centre.

“We are here to serve,” he said.

With the launch of the new facility, the ACT now has five Step Up Step Down centres.

The service has been launched as part of the ACT Government’s budget provision of $22.8 million over four years to deliver supported accommodation for people struggling with their mental health.

If you or someone you know needs help, Lifeline’s 24/7 crisis support service can be reached on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call triple zero (000).


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