For the first time Northern Territory children suffering mental illness will be able to get treatment at a dedicated kids and adolescents facility as part of a multi-million dollar boost to health services in the Top End.
The NT Government this week launched the Mental Health Youth Inpatient Program at Royal Darwin Hospital -- the first specialist mental health facility of its kind in the Territory. It has been set up to cater to Territorians aged 12-18 who require acute mental health treatment.
Health Minister John Elferink said there was a big demand for such services in the NT, with $900,000 of government money used to set up the program.
“(It) offers a therapeutic program in a homely, caring and supportive environment and provides 24 hour care for young people with complex care and assessment needs," Elferink said.
He said therapeutic activities at the centre would enable staff members to work with young people, their families and carers, to deliver positive outcomes tailored to each young person.
The government said five specialist beds at Royal Darwin Hospital would be available from this week, with day programs to start in the coming months.
Professor Patrick McGorry, former Australian of the Year and executive director of Orygen's National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, called the establishment of the centre a “landmark day for the Territory".
"Young people will now have their own purpose-built space and will be looked after by specialist staff," said McGorry, who attended the opening of the centre.
The unveiling comes after the NT Government announced a new six-year mental health strategy late last year.
The strategy reportedly addresses six priority areas including future planning, prevention and early intervention, better involvement of patients and families, and improving skills of the workforce.
Robert Parker, the NT branch president of the Australian Medical Association, said at the time that the region's "ice epidemic" was stretching mental health resources.
"I think the ice epidemic at the moment is putting particular stress on our inpatient unit," he told the ABC.
Parker estimated a lift in presentations of severe psychosis of up to 10 percent due to ice.