New service changing lives as people in crisis find an Oasis away from ED
Monday 10 October 2022
It was the first time Janine had ever reached out for help – all her other mental health presentations had been in crises and had led to involuntary admissions, sometimes even critical care.
It took her an hour pacing the car park before she mustered the courage to walk through the doors of the emergency department. But she was desperate. She was having thoughts of suicide and felt this was her last chance for help.
She was soon taken to a place unlike any clinical environment she’d ever experienced – there were comfy lounge chairs and beanbags, just like someone’s lounge room. There was even good coffee.
And so, Janine discovered The Oasis crisis support space at Hervey Bay Hospital.
“They turned everything around for me that weekend,” the 59-year-old said.
“I hadn’t thought about the future at all – I didn’t think there was a future. I was overwhelmed by the thought that suddenly now there was hope, because I’d had none.
“But they did give me hope. The Oasis was a lifesaver for me. That glimmer of hope was essential for me to start my recovery journey.”
Member for Hervey Bay Adrian Tantari said Janine’s story was just one example of the many lives being saved and changed by the new Oasis service, through providing an alternative model of care for people experiencing mental health crisis or distress.
“The Oasis is one of eight crisis support spaces being trialled across Queensland, as part a $61.9 million commitment in 2019 by the Palaszczuk Government to improve mental health crisis care,” Mr Tantari said.
“Crisis support spaces provide a combination of peer and clinical support in a welcoming and homely environment, and aim to provide an alternative to the emergency department while also improving people’s crisis care experiences and outcomes.
“Located near the entrance to the Hervey Bay Hospital emergency department, The Oasis launched in February this year as a limited-hours service, but has recently extended its hours due to strong growth in demand and hugely positive feedback from consumers. There are many other stories like Janine’s.”
The Oasis is now open five days a week from Friday to Tuesday, 2pm-9pm, to provide timely crisis care for people in need.
“During Mental Health Week, we’re reminded more than ever of our priorities to reduce suicide and enhance our crisis care, particularly given the extra pressure the COVID-19 pandemic has put on people’s mental health and demand for services,” Mr Tantari said.
“That’s why we committed $1.6 billion to the state Better Care Together five-year mental health plan in our latest Budget. This new investment will enable significant expansion of crisis support spaces across Queensland, including one in Bundaberg that’s due to open early next year.”
From its launch in February 2022 through to 30 September, The Oasis has experienced strong demand, with just over 220 presentations from people of all ages – roughly half of which from people returning for support without needing to re-present to the ED.
Wide Bay Hospital and Health Board Chair Peta Jamieson said the Oasis was a great demonstration of WBHHS’s broader goals to deliver more care locally and enhance holistic health care.
“The Oasis is all about providing the right care, in the right place, at the right time,” Ms Jamieson said.
“This service is different because it’s led by peer workers, who use their own lived experience of mental health challenges to provide support and hope to people as they work towards recovery.
“It’s also the only one of its kind in Queensland open to people as young as 16, enabling more young people struggling with their mental health to benefit from this life-changing model of care.”
WBHHS Executive Director of Mental Health and Specialised Services Robyn Bradley said one of the key aspects of the new service was that it enabled suitable people who presented to the emergency department to be fast-tracked to The Oasis – or to bypass the ED completely.
Access to the service is initially via the ED or by referral from Wide Bay Mental Health services, but this will soon be extended to enable community and self-referrals.
“The Oasis is helping us to fundamentally change the way we respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis,” Ms Bradley said.
“Up until now, people experiencing a mental health crisis – particularly after hours – would present to our emergency department because this was their only option or, even worse, would not reach out for help at all because of previous poor experiences in an ED.
“Our ED staff do an amazing job under intense pressure, but their expertise is in providing emergency medical care. In many cases, when someone attends an ED with mental health challenges, they can experience long waits in an environment that can exacerbate their distress.
“In the relatively short time it’s been open, it’s clear the Oasis team is filling a crucial gap in our services and drawing enormous praise from consumer, carers and community providers alike.”
For Janine, who visited the Oasis three nights in a row when she was in the grips of severe depression, that encounter has been an important step on the road to recovery.
“(The Oasis team) helped me realise that there’s nothing monumental about beginning to return from such a severe depression – it’s just taking that one step. I’ve taken that step, and I’m now steadily climbing out of the deep pit I’d been trapped in,” she said.
“I think the Oasis could have completely changed my life if it had existed when I first became involved in the mental health system as a young person. Now that it’s here, I hope many more people will choose to use it when they need it.
“It changed my life; it can change others’ lives too.”