Mental health beds boost at The Geelong Clinic

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Mental health treatment in Victoria’s second largest city will receive a boost, with a $16 million expansion at The Geelong Clinic.

Healthscope Limited has announced it will be delivering an additional 21 private mental health beds at the clinic, which is the only facility of its kind in the Barwon South Western Region.

The Geelong Clinic has speciality programs for a range of psychiatric conditions such as addiction, anxiety and depression, schizophrenia, mood disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders and post-traumatic stress.

The Geelong Clinic’s general manager and director of nursing, Janine Haigh, said the redevelopment would be designed to cater for current and future demand, with room for further expansion.

“At the moment, there is a high demand for mental health services and we do have a waiting list,” she said.

“This funding will convert our shared accommodation into private rooms, an additional 21 rooms, and upgrading our kitchen and dining facilities as well as our office.

“Forty-five per cent of Victorians will deal with mental illness in their lifetime and there is a large, unmet demand for treatment.

“We are the only private facility in the region; we do work closely with the public sector, but there is a definite need for more. And this expansion is really great for our community.”

The expansion will take the hospital’s total number of beds to 73.

The redevelopment comes as the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office last month highlighted the need for more mental health services in Victoria.

A report said the state lagged significantly behind other jurisdictions in the amount of funding and infrastructure available, and the percentage of the population being supported.

Professor Michael Berk, The Geelong Clinic’s Professorial Unit’s director, said the expansion would cater for much needed demand in the region.

“Currently there is a considerable unmet need for mental health services in the community,” Professor Berk said.

“These new beds at The Geelong Clinic will provide increased access to psychiatric services for many people who are currently unable to access the mental health treatment they require.

“This will have considerable potential impact on our community, helping to reduce the intensity and duration of psychiatric symptoms in the individuals we treat.”

Ms Haigh added awareness of mental health issues had “definitely” improved.

“Events like R U OK Day, are fantastic,” she said.

“They tell people that if you’re not travelling along so great, it’s ok to speak up and seek help.

“I think there’s a lot of hope for patients now who present with mental health issues.”

According to Ms Haigh, early intervention for mental illness was “really important” and The Geelong Clinic offered a number of day programs.

“From all the research we’ve seen, the sooner people seek help, the better their prognosis,” she said.

“Saying that, I would say that middle aged males, around the age of 42, that is an age group that presents (with mental illness) for the first time and there is a high risk in that age group.

“There’s a lot of focus in the media on youth mental health, which is very important, but there is a high risk in that older age group and still a lot of unmet demand there.”

Construction on the clinic expansion is set to begin in early 2020 and will take about 12 months to complete.

“We treat individuals from as far away as the South Australian border with some patients travelling from interstate to access our eating disorder and other speciality programs, as well as our local community,” Ms Haigh said.

“Demand for dedicated, specialised mental health services is only going to increase and we are committed to ensuring the community has access to the care they require.

“This expansion is really fantastic news for our patients, staff and our community.”

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