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Steps in the right direction for youth mental health in Cairns

17 October 2018 

Young people experiencing severe and complex mental health issues are a step closer to accessing a purpose-built facility in Cairns, with the Queensland Government today announcing Aftercare as the service provider.

Aftercare has secured up to $9.1 million to deliver youth mental health services in Cairns over five years.

This is the first Youth Step Up Step Down (SUSD) facility in Queensland, providing a local recovery service for young people requiring sub-acute mental health services.

Adolescence and early adulthood can be a risky period for mental health problems, which is why the Queensland Government is improving access to high quality, specialised services close to home.

Having specialised facilities will ensure healthcare services are available when they are needed for Queensland’s most vulnerable patients, in a community setting patients and families can be comfortable in.

They may be stepping down from a stay in an acute mental health inpatient service where they need additional support to maintain their recovery or stepping up from the community when they need help, but not at the acute level.

This six-bed facility will support young people, aged 16 to 21, to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions through appropriate short-term treatment programs.

The program will operate as a partnership between Aftercare and Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service (CHHHS).

Aftercare is Australia’s oldest mental health charity and provides a wide range of community, residential and integrated mental health services. Aftercare is a leading provider of 24-hour youth residential services, including in the Cairns region.

Aftercare Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Young, said Aftercare brings wide-ranging experience in the delivery of services to young people with mental health concerns.

"Three quarters of all mental health issues in older adults relate to issues in childhood and youth," Dr Young said.

"Providing seamless specialist mental health support for young people is critical both for ensuring far better long-term outcomes for individuals and for reducing the ongoing burden of mental illness for the community.

"We are delighted to be partnering with the Queensland Government and the CHHHS in the establishment of the Cairns Youth Step Up Step Down service."

CHHHS Mental Health Service Director, Marie Kelly said the centre will provide a safe home-like environment for young people to recover, making sure they receive the mental health support they need in a community-based setting.

"We are looking forward to the facility opening next year and to working with Aftercare whose staff will provide qualified supervision, practical support and collaborative recovery orientated interventions that are specific and tailored to each young person.

"A range of CHHHS expert clinical staff will complement Aftercare’s services. These staff will include nurses on site, social workers, occupational therapists and psychologists who will visit and work with young people at the facility as an alternative to being treated in an adolescent or adult mental health inpatient unit."

The Cairns Youth SUSD facility is due to be completed in early 2019, with services to commence shortly after.

This youth facility will be in addition to the existing Adult Step Up Step Down facilities across Queensland, expanding the range of mental health service options for all Queenslanders.

The establishment of SUSD services is a priority action under the Queensland Government’s Connecting care to recovery 2016-2021. This plan emphasises investing in care to help meet existing demand, bridge service gaps and establish and expand more evidence-based, integrated and flexible models of service.

Last updated: 19 February 2019