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New space a welcome place for those in crisis

Published:  19 July 2022

An unassuming place of calm and comfort has been created at Townsville University Hospital for community members seeking support in times of emotional distress and crisis.  

Townsville Hospital and Health Service (HHS) mental health service group medical director Dr Jason Lee said Wadda Mooli, The Welcome Space, would complement existing crisis services in the community.  

‘‘Often people who are experiencing crisis after hours are admitted to an emergency department (ED) and we know a busy clinical space can be incredibly overwhelming for someone who is in distress,’’ Dr Lee said. 

‘‘This new model of care allows our peer workers to meet a person who has presented to the ED for help, have them discharged and take them to The Welcome Space to develop a support plan through a conversation and often, a cuppa. 

‘’Ideally, we hope this space will reduce crisis presentations to our incredibly busy ED.’’  

 Dr Lee said the service had been co-designed with people with lived experience of emotional distress and crisis to ensure the space would meet the needs of the people visiting.  

 "Through this process, we identified peer workers with a lived experience of emotional distress and crisis were best placed to lead the care of each person in conjunction with a mental health clinician,’’ Dr Lee said.  

‘‘To deliver this, we are working with selectability who will provide peer worker staff to work with our staff.  

‘’Through their Townsville Suicide Prevention Network, selectability has a demonstrated history of delivering clearly defined strategies and outcomes that make a difference for individuals and families who may be struggling.’’ 

 selectability peer support worker Peter Brown said he knew firsthand how valuable a model of care like The Welcome Space was.  

 ‘‘I personally found myself faced with a crisis a few years ago and without knowing where to go, I presented to the ED for help,’’ Mr Brown said.  

 ‘‘I quickly realised a busy clinical setting was not what I needed and fortunately, was connected with support networks within the community. 

‘‘Unfortunately, this is not always the case so the creation of a space like this has potential to be life changing for many community members.’’ 

 Mr Brown said the support he received changed the direction of his life completely. 

 ‘‘Not only was my life saved but I also changed careers and left my work as a builder to become a peer support worker,’’ he said.  

 ‘‘I’m so passionate about helping others.’’

 Queensland Health chief psychiatrist Dr John Reilly said Queensland Health was committed to improving the care and outcomes for people experiencing a mental health crisis. 

 ‘‘Providing welcoming and safe crisis care options outside the emergency department is one of the ways we are looking to do this’’ Dr Reilly said.  

 ‘‘The Welcome Space was one of eight crisis support spaces now operating near or nearby a Queensland Health emergency department.

 ‘‘The $10.8 million crisis support space initiative was funded under the 2019 State Budget’s $80.1 million Shifting Minds Suicide Prevention Flagship.’’

 Townsville HHS board chair Tony Mooney said Townsville University Hospital was incredibly proud to be selected as one of the four additional spaces opened in 2021-22. 

 ‘'Wadda Mooli, The Welcome Space is about care and respect which we know is essential for all people and particularly those in crisis,’’ Mr Mooney said.  

 Acting Townsville HHS chief executive Stephen Eaton said caring for people in a safe place that was located close to the ED allowed our teams to also escalate the level of care if a person’s situation changed.

 ‘‘Delivering new models of care like this not only takes pressure off our high-intake areas like ED but they also deliver best-practice care to people when and where they need it most,’’ Mr Eaton said.

 ‘‘The Welcome Space is an excellent example of care being delivered with the needs of our patients and clients being placed at the forefront of design and planning.’’

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