MIND the GaP: Sod turning on $2.5M mental health and wellbeing facility for the Shoalhaven

MIND the GaP: Sod turning on $2.5M mental health and wellbeing facility for the Shoalhaven

Construction to begin on new community-centred initiative

A ceremonial turning of the sod at 11am today (Friday 17 March 2017) at the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Shoalhaven Campus marks the official start of construction on an innovative facility aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing for the people of the Shoalhaven.

Federal Member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis MP, Mayor of the Shoalhaven, Cr Amanda Findley, Lifeline South Coast Chairman, Mr Stephen Long and local Aboriginal Elder, Uncle Tom Moore will join UOW’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Health Strategy and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, Professor Alison Jones, to turn the first sods together as project partners in this exciting venture.

The new purpose-built $2.5 million Mental Illness in Nowra District: Goals and Prevention (MIND the GaP) facility is a joint initiative of the University of Wollongong (UOW), Shoalhaven City Council and the Commonwealth Government that will help address the high level of mental health needs in the Shoalhaven, particularly among vulnerable and younger people.

The initiative is jointly funded by the Commonwealth Government’s National Stronger Regions Fund ($1.229M) and UOW ($1.230M).

Located adjacent to the existing buildings at UOW’s Shoalhaven Campus at West Nowra, the approximately 720 square metre facility will include research, consultation and assessment rooms, meeting spaces, a 60-seat conference and training room, outdoor courtyard and children’s play area as well as provision for a future extension.

Mind the GaP will bring together health care professionals, researchers and frontline support services including Lifeline South Coast, Noah’s Shoalhaven and Coordinare to create an integrated mental health and wellbeing facility to apply ‘best practice’ mental health care initiatives (including those of Lifeline South Coast) that will support the community and help improve the prevention, early recognition and treatment of mental health issues, including suicide prevention and trauma recovery.

UOW and its partners expect the centre will facilitate at least 2000 client/community visitations per year once fully operational, as well as key multidisciplinary teaching and community-based participatory research.

Federal Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis said the National Stronger Regions Fund invested in the Mind the GaP initiative to assist in addressing mental health and wellbeing.

“The Federal Governments investment of $1.2 million demonstrates its accountability and responsibility to Gilmore, I with all levels of Government and service providers will continue to deliver on the needs of this great region. “This project will create 20 full time jobs during construction, plus another 11 full-time research and administration jobs,” Mrs Sudmalis said.

“This will support the region’s economic development by providing new employment opportunities for residents.

“I congratulate the University of Wollongong and all stakeholders involved on bringing this wonderful project to fruition.” 

UOW Pro Vice-Chancellor Health Strategy and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, Professor Alison Jones said the MIND the GaP initiative will help improve lives and community health through prevention and early intervention and developing new “best practice”.

“A major area of concern for the Shoalhaven area is trauma recovery and suicide prevention.

“Initiatives delivered out of the MIND the GaP facility will focus on developing new models of care in suicide prevention, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) and depression – all backed by evidence-based research,” Professor Jones said.

“This project has been made possible by the generous commitment of substantial funding by the Commonwealth Government through the National Stronger Regions Fund, our partnership with Shoalhaven City Council and significant investment by the University of Wollongong.

“By also partnering with organisations such as Lifeline South Coast, Noah’s Shoalhaven and Coordinare—who all work at the coal-face in combating mental health issues—we are able to bring together researchers with community to provide holistic care for people at various stages of the mental health continuum and make a real difference within the community,” Professor Jones said.

The MIND the GaP facility will build upon the established presence of the University’s Graduate Medicine and School of Nursing programs operating at its Shoalhaven Campus as well as the strong foundations of health and wellbeing services currently existing throughout the region.”