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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Youth mental health unit for Cairns

THE Queensland Government will invest $24 million for a dedicated adolescent mental health unit at Cairns Hospital, the first of its kind in Far North Queensland.

To make room for the new unit, the existing adult inpatient ward on the ground floor of A-Block will be refurbished with 8 beds, to allow for new age-appropriate adolescent mental health care and treatment.

The funding announcement includes up to $19 million to facilitate the refurbishment of the existing space.

Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive Leena Singh said the new unit is a proactive step towards addressing the growing need for mental health services in the Far North.

“It will mean we can better care for young people experiencing eating disorders, anxiety, and depressing or psychotic thoughts,” she said.

“It will provide greater local access to acute mental health services for young people and allow families to support their child’s progress without needing to travel out of the region.”  

The new ward will provide direct acute support for young people struggling with mental health issues, ensuring they receive timely and comprehensive care in a safe and supportive environment.

An expected 24 additional staff will help to care for children and adolescents once the new facility begins treating patients – including doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and dietitians.

Construction on the new 53-bed adult mental health unit is nearing completion, with practical completion expected later this year ahead of opening to patients from the beginning of 2025.

This will then make way for the new youth mental health beds to begin caring for patients later in 2025.

Health Minister Shannon Fentiman said the unit will make an enormous difference to the lives of young people in the Far North.

“The new unit will complement existing community-based services, including the Youth Step Up Step Down residential facility, Assertive Mobile Youth Outreach Service and Evolve Therapeutic Services,” she said.

“Cairns locals deserve access to high quality healthcare closer to home, and that includes mental healthcare for some of our most vulnerable kids.”

The new unit will be funded through the government’s Mental Health Levy, which has created a sustainable funding source for mental healthcare since it began collecting revenue on 1 January 2023. 

Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: JCU investigates universal flu protection and Turtle education bid for Green Island.

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