22 February 2022

Tender awarded, timeline in place for ACT residential eating disorder facility

| Lottie Twyford
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Emma Davidson speaking into microphone

Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson announced the ACT’s residential eating disorder is now a step closer after the design tender was awarded. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

The tender for the ACT’s first residential eating disorder facility has been awarded, taking the much-needed project one step closer to its expected completion at the end of 2023.

Construction is forecast to begin later this year on the treatment centre to provide a home-like environment for people with eating disorders and their families and carers.

The design tender was awarded to Collard Clarke Jackson Canberra Pty Ltd, Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson announced on Sunday (20 February). A site for the centre has been earmarked in Coombs.

Ms Davidson said the centre is only one service needed in the care landscape.

“Canberrans with eating disorders need access to care services which are appropriate and flexible to their needs, from early engagement to ongoing treatment,” Ms Davidson said.

“The residential centre will complement other services in the ACT and deliver a stepped-care model which provides appropriate support no matter where people sit on the continuum of need. It will be critical to support people who sit between low-level community care and intensive or clinical care,” she explained.

READ ALSO Government funding flagged for eating disorder support, but one advocate remains ‘cautiously optimistic’

Ms Davidson said the design phase will help provide clarity on the location for the centre, the development process, and expectations around when the community can expect to access the service.

“We are still at the early stages, but this work is being developed together with other support services to ensure Canberrans have more access to eating disorder care, no matter their level of need,” she said.

The centre’s design will be developed in consultation with the health sector, people with eating disorders, their families, carers and the local community.

Currently, there are no inpatient facilities outside of a hospital setting for people with eating disorders in the ACT, and the only public specialist outpatient treatment option – the Eating Disorders Program in Phillip – has a months-long waitlist.

Advocates have often lamented that Canberrans with eating disorders must travel interstate for support. It can also be challenging to access psychologists, psychiatrists, dieticians and GPs who specialise in this area because of long waitlists.

READ ALSO Nurses need our care – and a decent wage

In January, the ACT Government launched a new central intake service called the Eating Disorders Clinical Hub to better connect Canberrans battling eating disorders to the right support services.

People can refer themselves or someone they may be concerned about to the Hub so an assessment can be conducted and support provided. GPs or medical professionals can also refer individuals.

Advocates welcomed the news at the time but said there is still a need for more investment in the space.

The ACT Government made a $2.2 million commitment in the 2019-20 Budget to deliver more eating disorder services, including a proposed Territory-wide model of care which will be finalised this year. It’s hoped this will provide better accessible pathways for Canberrans who need to transition between levels of care.

Work is also underway on the community-based Early Intervention Service for Eating Disorders, expected to launch in 2022/23, which will focus on supporting healthy behaviours and care for people in the early stage of their eating disorder.

The Commonwealth Government has agreed to fund $13.5 million over three years starting in 2021/22 to develop the residential treatment centre.

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