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MIND the GaP: $3.5M mental health and wellbeing facility opens in the Shoalhaven
Community-centred initiative brings together healthcare professionals, researchers and frontline support services
An innovative facility designed to improve mental health and wellbeing for the people of the Shoalhaven was officially opened on Tuesday (3 July 2018) at the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Shoalhaven Campus.
MIND the GaP (Mental Illness in Nowra District: Goals and Prevention) is a joint initiative of the Australian Government, Shoalhaven City Council and UOW to address the high level of mental health needs in the Shoalhaven, particularly among vulnerable and younger people.
The purpose-built $3.5 million MIND the GaP building was jointly funded by the Australian Government, through the National Stronger Regions Fund, and the University.
The Federal Member for Gilmore, Mrs Ann Sudmalis MP, delivered the opening speech and then joined with UOW Chancellor Jillian Broadbent AO and Shoalhaven City Council Mayor Councillor Amanda Findley to unveil a plaque.
Located on UOW’s Shoalhaven Campus at West Nowra, MIND the GaP provides patient-centred, holistic and preventative services in partnership with healthcare professionals, researchers and frontline support services. It includes research, consultation and assessment rooms, meeting spaces, a 60-seat conference and training room, outdoor courtyard and children’s play area.
A consortium of partners, led by UOW and Shoalhaven City Council and including Lifeline South Coast, Lifeline Australia Research Foundation, COORDINARE, the Illawarra and Shoalhaven Local Health District, Noah’s Shoalhaven and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, will harness their expertise to deliver innovative research, best quality health care practice, clinical services, practitioner training and community outreach and engagement.
This collaborative effort will address the high rate of mental health needs in the Shoalhaven community, particularly among younger people, and focus on improving the prevention, early recognition and treatment of mental health issues, including suicide prevention and managing traumatic stress responses.
The Shoalhaven has a higher burden of mental health conditions than other communities in the Illawarra-Shoalhaven, and higher than NSW and national levels.
UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE welcomed the opening of the facility, and said community engagement was the cornerstone of MIND the GaP.
"I am proud that we are opening this fantastic asset to benefit not only the people of the Shoalhaven, but for rural and regional areas across Australia,” Professor Wellings said.
“MIND the GaP is an exemplar of how the University of Wollongong is partnering with communities throughout NSW to work on shared commitments and to help deliver innovative solutions to local challenges.
“The MIND the GaP initiative is an exciting opportunity to empower the community and work across disciplines to address mental health challenges.”
Top: MIND the GaP Project Manager Glenn Williams, UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE, Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis MP, UOW Chancellor Jillian Broadbent AO, and Shoalhaven City Mayor Councillor Amanda Findley unveil the plaque. Below: Uncle Gerry Moore, Professor Alison Jones, Professor Paul Wellings.
UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Health and Communities) and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health Professor Alison Jones said MIND the GaP was a key part of UOW’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
“The University’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy is about inspiring, connecting, empowering and collaborating to enhance the health and wellbeing of our communities. Its focus on community-designed healthcare is helping communities across NSW take charge and make changes for the better,” Professor Jones said.
“MIND the GaP and its partnership model connect with other key initiatives in the UOW Health and Wellbeing Strategy to create a network of patient-centred health services across the Illawarra and Shoalhaven with links into Western Sydney and national and global partners.
“The Shoalhaven and wider communities present microcosms of the challenges people in regional and rural areas face.
“MIND the GaP will improve mental wellbeing services and community resilience in the Shoalhaven, while also delivering innovative regional strategies in mental health and wellbeing that will inform best practice in other parts of rural and regional Australia and internationally.”
Long term advocate, Federal Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis said, “The opening of this facility represents the Federal Government’s long term investment into Mental Health, allowing those who live in the region to have greater access to better services particularly in the Shoalhaven.
“Not only is the Turnbull Government investing further in community health, we are creating more job opportunities, because of this investment we now have 11 new full-time research and administration jobs in Gilmore.
“I would like to congratulate the University of Wollongong on the successful completion of this project,” Mrs Sudmalis said.
WHAT MIND THE GAP WILL DELIVER
MIND the GaP brings a whole-of-community response to addressing the complex societal challenges of mental health and wellbeing.
It builds on the established presence of UOW’s School of Medicine and School of Nursing at the Shoalhaven Campus and will:
- Create new translational research opportunities through collaboration focused on regional communities, with the Shoalhaven being a “regional national test bed” community for new tools and innovative models.
- Improve mental wellbeing services and community resilience in the Shoalhaven.
- Create pathways for the training of practitioners. It will also create professional development opportunities for practitioners.
- Deliver innovative regional strategies in mental health and wellbeing relevant to a regional and rural context. These strategies are expected to be transferable to other parts of rural and regional Australia.
Further benefits will stem from improved health outcomes, including economic advantage to provide a stronger future for the region.
MIND the GaP is officially opened at the University of Wollongong's Shoalhaven Campus.