Page 212 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

Health to ensure that this service was ready to open in November 2021—a time of year when many people experience great psychological distress. This increased level of distress was made all the more intense by more than two years of social and economic disruption as a result of bushfires, smoke, and the health, economic and social isolation impacts of COVID-19.

The Safe Haven has been so well supported and anticipated because it provides non-clinical care to members of our community seeking immediate after-hours support. Emergency departments are often the front door to the health system, playing a unique role in the provision of high-quality acute medical care to everyone in the community. Emergency departments are open 24 hours and they are busy clinical environments that can be overwhelming places for people seeking help for mental health issues.

However, we know that many people with emotional distress or with mental health concerns can benefit from accessing help in the community at an earlier stage rather than going to ED. The Safe Haven is just one investment to address the demand on the ED and improve treatment and recovery outcomes of people with mental health concerns.

Over recent years, innovative alternatives for people experiencing emotional or psychosocial distress, including safe havens, have emerged in several countries such as the United Kingdom, USA and in Europe, and in other jurisdictions here in Australia. These safe spaces have been designed to provide a welcoming, comfortable and supportive environment to seek help.

Having seen the Safe Haven in Belconnen, I can assure you, Madam Speaker, that it is indeed a warm, relaxed environment, with friendly and understanding peer mental health workers ready to listen and provide support in a space that feels more like a cafe or a friend’s lounge room than a clinic.

Safe havens are consistent with the recommendations and themes in the Productivity Commission’s final report and the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, aiming to respond to people’s concerns as early as possible and promote connection to services and supports. The growing evidence in support of this innovative approach and to address these recommendations confirmed the need for, and subsequent funding of, a pilot of the Safe Haven approach in the ACT.

As I have mentioned previously, initial funding for the pilot was obtained by then Minister for Mental Health Shane Rattenbury through the ACT government’s COVID-19 mental health support package in May 2020, acknowledging the additional demands on mental health services created by the pandemic and an increasing need for mental health support for the ACT community.

Our original intention was to pilot two Safe Haven sites, each for a period of six months, and there was strong interest in establishing one of these in close proximity to the ED at Canberra Hospital. Due to Canberra Hospital’s extensive construction program, the decision was made to focus on delivering a community Safe Haven for an extended period and incorporating an evaluation to inform future developments

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video