New Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drug Hub makes positive impact

Image 1.0 Inside the MHAOD Hub

Image: Inside St Vincent’s new Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drug Hub

A dedicated Hub established at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne is providing a safe and supportive space for around 6,800 people who attend the Emergency Department (ED) each year with mental health and alcohol and other drug emergencies.

Co-located within St Vincent’s ED at Fitzroy, the Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drug (MHAOD) Hub is a first of its kind and one of six that were funded by the Victorian Government across the state.

The St Vincent’s-based Hub forms part of the Victorian Government’s $32 million investment to better support Victorians experiencing urgent mental health and alcohol and other drug issues.

Since the Hub’s inception just over a year ago, patients treated in the Hub have been seen by a doctor in a shorter time and had a reduced length of stay in the ED overall.

The Hub incorporates a six-bed short-stay like unit and two quiet interview rooms, as well as a communal space where carers and patients can spend time together. The set-up promotes an environment that is calming, comfortable, secure and safe. It has been designed to optimise care outside the often busy and stressful setting presented in the ED that can become overwhelming at times, especially for patients experiencing mental health and/or alcohol and other drug challenges.

An Emergency Medicine Hub team comprised of doctors, nurses and clinicians together with specialist Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol and Lived Experience staff was formed to provide multidisciplinary care. The group works collaboratively when treating patients in the Hub – an approach that underpins the strength of its targeted efforts.

Victorian Emergency Departments state-wide have experienced increased numbers of patients presenting with mental health as well as drug and alcohol issues, when their condition has reached crisis point. “Historically patients with mental health, alcohol and other drug emergencies have waited extended times for care in the Emergency Department and have had that care provided in an environment that is not particularly conducive to their healing,” said Dr Jonathan Karro, Director of Emergency Medicine at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

“Through our new Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drug Hub we are now able to provide excellence in patient care for these groups in a purpose-built environment that is patient and carer-centred. It is 100 per cent focused on their specific needs.” 

Dr Jonathan Karro - Director of Emergency 1.0

Image: Dr Jonathan Karro

Putting patient needs first

The average length of stay for those attending the Hub is 40 per cent shorter than the average length of stay they would have experienced in our ED as part of the general mix of patients.

“This has created capacity for an additional 20 patients to be seen each day in our Emergency Department,” said Dr Karro.

In the Hub, ED physicians, mental health clinicians, AoD clinicians, care coordinators and Hub coordinators, psychiatry consultancy and ED nursing staff work together to streamline patient care from triage, assessment and treatment to discharge-planning and arranging appropriate community and outreach services.

A key part to this model’s trauma-informed care is the inclusion of peer support members with lived experience who are able to offer valuable first-hand insight and guidance for staff and patients.

More than 3,600 patients who would otherwise have been seen through our Emergency Department have been treated in the St Vincent’s Hub since its launch.

“The Hub is not just a location but a model of care that really considers patient needs, from start to end. It is a philosophy and demonstrates the best way of doing things to benefit these patients. Our team has worked very hard to make this a reality,” said Dr Karro.