Australia’s first private early intervention in-patient service for young people with mental health problems opens its doors today, as private providers start to respond to the continuing critical shortage of treatment options for young adults needing psychiatric help.
The unit, officially called the Young Adult Mental Health Service, is at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Private Hospital and includes a purpose-built, 20-bed in-patient unit designed for people aged 16 to 30.
While patients will need private health insurance to be covered for the admission costs, the unit will set aside some beds to look after patients who do not have private cover.
It is the first private mental health facility in Australia to focus exclusively on young people and is based partly on the public Orygen Youth Health service in Melbourne, except the St Vincent’s service has a wider remit in the range of mental conditions it seeks to treat.
Nurse unit manager Kate Harel said the unit’s purpose was to “provide opportunities for early diagnosis”.
While medication was often suitable for some patients, Ms Harel said the unit’s focus was “more about providing patients with a program that addresses their particular needs”, through talking techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy.
All patients will be voluntary as private hospitals cannot accept involuntary patients detained without their consent.
The unit will also provide day programs for recently discharged and other patients who can return for further day-long treatments designed to keep their recovery on track.
There will be out-patient services for patients to have single sessions with psychiatrists or other health professionals, while an outreach service will visit recently discharged patients in their homes.
Psychiatrist Liz Scott, director of clinical services at the Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney, is the deputy director of the unit and said there was a strong push to ensure a strong research input into its activities.
“There’s a huge degree of unmet need in the community — it’s so hard to get young people admitted into either the public hospital system,” Dr Scott said.
“My last patient, a 16-year-old girl, described what it was like to be admitted to a public hospital. (as a psychiatric patient). She was in a locked unit, with no (treatment) program, and she had to listen to people being restrained and sedated.”
As first appeared in The Australian