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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Case study:

Bendigo Youth Prevention and Recovery Care

Bendigo Health’s Youth Prevention and Recovery Care (Bendigo Y‑PARC) is a 10‑bed facility that provides 24‑hour treatment and support for young people aged 16–25 years.

The service is a short‑term, recovery‑focused residential facility for people who are either leaving acute mental health care as their risk profile has improved, or who would benefit from 24‑hour support to avoid a hospital admission and can be safely managed in an open setting. The service functions as a short‑term ’step up’ (from community care) or ‘step down’ (from hospital) residential stay to either prevent further deterioration of someone’s mental state or to further assist with their recovery, or both. In 2018–19, it provided care for 121 people.

Bendigo Y‑PARC is part of Bendigo Mental Health Services, with wellbeing support programs subcontracted to Mind Australia. The multidisciplinary clinical team includes mental health nurses, occupational therapists and social workers, as well as psychiatrists and psychiatry registrars.

After an initial psychiatric assessment to establish the clinical treatment required, participants are supported for a period of up to 28 days to help develop healthy routines and take part in group programs focused on areas such as anger management, problem solving and daily living skills. Families are involved in the assessment and treatment plans whenever possible.

Dr John Cooper, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Youth Mental Health Service of Bendigo Health, said the facility was purpose built and started operating in 2013. It provides a more therapeutic atmosphere than a hospital environment, and aims to promote recovery and rehabilitation.

It’s very youth friendly, it’s a comfortable inviting physical space. It’s a combination of a clinical service provided through Bendigo Health, and we also work in partnership with Mind to deliver a range of psychosocial interventions such as income support, engagement with community programs, as well as helping people develop daily living skills, such as shopping, meal planning and cooking.

Dr Cooper added that ‘step up’ admissions can include re‑admissions, both as a means of keeping young people safe and providing them with more support without requiring a hospital admission.

An example of a step‑up admission would be if a young person has achieved therapeutic goals in the community, for example, avoiding self‑harm, staying off illicit drugs, or engaging in school or work but they then start to struggle and need more support, we would endeavour to provide a brief planned admission as an alternative to an inpatient unit.

Dr Cooper said because there are no inpatient hospital facilities in the area to accommodate young people under 18 years old, Bendigo Y‑PARC gives those between 16 and 18 the option to avoid travelling to Melbourne for help if they can be managed safely.

We help avoid some of those admissions that would otherwise happen. YPARC is about keeping people out of hospital and providing an individualised approach, with all the benefits a multidisciplinary team can provide.

Nikayla, a patient at Bendigo Y‑PARC, said the service helped her in many ways and helped her ‘enjoy the little things in life again’.

Y‑PARC helped me find my old self. It helped me get through the victims of crime stuff with the support of the clinicians and Mind staff. I feel like there should be more of this on offer for everyone and that it should be more well‑known, I did not know things like this existed until I came here.

Source: RCVMHS, Interview with John Cooper, October 2020.