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Yolande Hutchinson
UNSW Sydney External Engagement
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The Mindgardens Neuroscience Network, which integrates treatments and research for mental health, neurological and alcohol and drug disorders, was officially launched today by Member for Wentworth, Mr Dave Sharma MP.

Mindgardens, the first initiative of its kind in Australia, is a collaboration between UNSW Sydney, Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), the Black Dog Institute and South Eastern Sydney Local Health District Health. It offers clinical services to patients, supported by research programs, and training and educational initiatives, drawing on the expertise of the four partners.

“Mindgardens will develop and provide treatments for patients that are tailored to take account of the newest research discoveries and apply insights from the four collaborating partners. Patient responses will be monitored to guide treatment choices for others who come after them. This feedback loop between real-world medicine and scientific studies is the hallmark of the Mindgardens approach,” John Grill AO, Chairman of the Mindgardens Neuroscience Network said.

“Mindgardens has been made possible by $7 million of start-up funding from the Commonwealth Government, and we thank the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, for his vision and support,” he continued.

“This integrated approach will create innovative, new models of care and transform the way we deliver care to people with mental health, drug and alcohol and neurological disorders in Australia,” Mr Sharma said.

The Mindgardens offering will include:

Community hubs and primary health services, which match the intensity of support to clients’ current needs

  • A Safe Haven for people experiencing a mental health or suicidal crisis, open for extended hours. The Safe Haven will begin operating when a suitable location in the Local Health District is confirmed.
  • Scaled up physical health support for people with mental health issues, addressing cardiac and metabolic health and medication side-effects.

Highly-specialised clinics that respond to the most complex and acute issues

  • Mindgardens Tertiary Referral Service for Psychosis: individualised therapeutic approaches for people who live with complex psychotic disorders.
  • Mindgardens Clinic for Depression: support for people whose depression is too complex for a GP to manage alone, but not so severe they need in-patient care.
  • Mindgardens clinics will be available predominantly to patients within the catchment of the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District. There is potential for some clinics to become state-wide specialist services, serving people all over NSW.

Prevention and outreach services

  • Adaptation of Black Dog Institute’s popular online depression and anxiety support modules for patients with chronic physical health problems.
  • Shared care plans between patients, GPs and specialist services, with a focus on integrated responses to mental health and alcohol and drug issues.

“There is increasing concern within the community about the delivery and quality of health services for mental health, suicide prevention, drug and alcohol and brain disorders. UNSW is proud be part of the Mindgardens network to pioneer and test new approaches that can then be applied more broadly,” said UNSW Dean of Medicine Professor Vlado Perkovic.

Member for Wentworth, Mr Dave Sharma MP, Mindgardens launch

Member for Wentworth, Mr Dave Sharma MP speaking at the Mindgardens launch event

Template for success

UNSW Sydney is one of Australia’s Group of Eight leading universities, with a strong reputation in life sciences and medicine.

“Black Dog Institute is proud to be working alongside other world-leading organisations to improve the quality of mental healthcare offered to those with mental health, neurological and alcohol and drug disorders. We hope that Mindgardens provides a template for similar partnerships across the country, with the ultimate goal of helping to reduce national rates of mental ill-health through world-class care,” said Black Dog Institute’s Director and Chief Scientist, Scientia Professor Helen Christensen AO, who is also Interim Joint CEO of Mindgardens.

The Black Dog Institute undertakes research into depression, conducts clinical research in its clinics, and develops and implements suicide prevention strategies.

“Mindgardens marks an important step forward in providing healthcare that is informed by high calibre research and will use research and clinical trials to drive continuous improvement to patient outcomes. By joining forces with other mental health and neurological clinicians and researchers, this new initiative will allow us to integrate our findings into effective and clinically tested treatments that will improve the health and wellbeing of those living with brain disorders,” said Professor Peter Schofield AO, CEO at NeuRA and Interim Joint CEO of Mindgardens.

NeuRA conducts research to prevent, treat and cure brain and nervous system diseases, disorders and injuries.

Mr Tobi Wilson, Chief Executive, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD), welcomed the Mindgardens Neuroscience Network launch. SESLHD runs the world-leading Prince of Wales Hospital, as well as local community-based services.

“As home to some of Australia’s leading minds contributing to research and treatment in brain disorders, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District is celebrating the launch of the Mindgardens Neuroscience Network,” Mr Wilson said.

“With some of the Australasia’s leading clinicians, educators and researchers joining forces here, Mindgardens is an emerging powerhouse in this field, reflecting the value of the Randwick Precinct.”

The majority of Mindgardens services in the initial phase will be available primarily by referral either from a GP or through hospital in-patient wards or out-patient clinics. The Safe Haven will be a drop-in centre available to the general public.