Dunedin . The Temporary Care Home for Mental Health Crisis opens today in Dunedin

The new respite home for mental health crisis in Dunedin opened today (September 27), significantly increasing the city’s capacity for respite care in an emergency.

Located less than 10 minutes from Dunedin Hospital, the five-bedroom property and its dedicated team of medical staff and trained mental health support workers will provide 24-hour residential support for adults with acute mental distress.

The new service is the result of an extended contract between Te Whatu Ora Southern and community service provider Pact. The service will be managed by Pact, which specializes in helping people recovering from mental illness with 24/7 subsidized accommodation, respite care, and community support. Pact runs a similar home in Lower Hut.

The newly renovated property is comfortable and spacious, offering home-like surroundings in a peaceful garden setting. There is space for wanao to see loved ones in private or even spend the night on site if they wish.

It will accommodate clients referred by mental health, addiction, and intellectual disability (MHAIDS) or general practice teams, who need a crisis respite in a residential setting. Pact will work closely with the teams and inpatient services to ensure tangata whaiora (those seeking well-being) receive the support they need.

The specialist home will result in a fivefold increase in mental health comfort capacity in Dunedin – from 365 nights a year to 1,825 beds a year – and aims to provide hospital beds and staff. Inpatient hospital services will continue to be available to those who need them.

Dunedin historically has a one-bed unit available for temporary emergency care, so expanding capacity addresses a long-term service gap, says Tony Gotschlag, executive director of mental health, addiction and intellectual disability at Te Watteau Aura Southern.

“More people in crisis will have access to professional support that is clinically and community-led rather than hospitalized, enabling them to stay close to home,” she says. “Our goal is to provide early intervention and more focused care to people in the Dunedin area, and an improved user experience and comfort.”

Thomas Cardy, general manager of Pact, says Pact is pleased to offer the new support option as a potential alternative to hospitalization for the Dunedin community.

“We anticipate that it will assist a number of people who may have been admitted or sent home for short-term support with clinical supervision in collaboration with the Te Whatu Ora Southern mental health teams and the Emergency Psychiatric Service.”

The Dunedin Initiative addresses areas of need identified during 2021 Time for Change – T Horihanga Review. It is part of a larger program of mental health reforms underway to bring mental health and wellbeing care closer to home and make it more accessible for all.

Time for Change – Te Horihanga is a focused year-long project led by Te Watu Ora Southern to address issues of health, equity, location, social and systemic issues and putting people at the center of care.

It is part of the trend to change the mental health and addiction system in Aotearoa over the next 10 years. The new health and disability reforms acknowledge that mental health is affected by factors including income, housing and employment – which require a whole-of-government approach. It aims to support people to stay healthy, and get the help that works for them, when and where they need it.

More information about the Time for Change – Te Hurihanga program and review is available at www.southernhealth.co.nz/timeforchange. An interim report detailing planned projects and timelines, and an overview of actions completed or underway, as well as next steps, will be released in the next few weeks.

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