Youth Mental Health Reform
Involving consumers and carers at all levels of a project of this size is unprecedented and unique. Over 4 years, Health Consumers Queensland worked with over 70 consumers and carers in an authentic collaboration to co-design this one-of-a-kind facility for young people. The only centre of its kind in Australia, Jacaranda Place provides integrated mental health treatment and educational/vocational services for young people aged from 13 years across Queensland.
Jacaranda Place, as well as rehabilitative residential services (Step-Up/Step-Down) at Logan and Caboolture, and day programs in Logan and the Gold Coast, have been established as a result of one of the most significant youth mental health consumer engagement projects to date.
Specialist care and support is provided to young people in the 12-bed residential program and 10-place day program in the secure and modern facilities. A collaborative partnership between the Department of Education and Children’s Health Queensland, Jacaranda Place is based at the Prince Charles Hospital campus. It caters to students with complex mental illness requiring support to transition to regular schooling, and to develop life skills and obtain vocational training.
From 2016 to 2021, Health Consumers Queensland partnered with Queensland Health to give a voice to young people with severe and complex mental health issues, and their families, affected by the closure of Queensland’s only long-term residential mental health facility for adolescents.
The closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre in January 2014 led to widespread community concern following the deaths of three former patients. The Barrett Adolescent Centre Commission of Inquiry (BACCOI) was launched in 2015, culminating in the Queensland Government’s response a year later in which they accepted in principle all six recommendations from the BACCOI for implementation
The Queensland Government Response to the BACCOI Report noted that the “consultation with Barrett families and consumers after the closure of Barrett was not ideal. Beyond the involvement of carer and consumer representatives on the Expert Clinical Reference Group (ECRG), there was no evidence of any two-way consultation with Barrett families and consumers. There was also no evidence of a process for receiving the views of patients, families and carers, and therefore no scope for those views to influence the decision-making about Barrett”.
Health Consumers Queensland was commissioned to support the consumer and carer engagement component to ensure a wide range of consumers could have their say about the changes being implemented as a result of the government’s response. The aim was to support safe and meaningful engagement of young people and their families across all six recommendations including the co-design of a new centre, legislation reviews, improvements to service agreements, and research.
Health Consumers Queensland recruited an engagement advisor specific to the project to support the consumer and carer representatives, facilitate consumer and carer meetings, and provide strategic advice to Queensland Health and the Department of Education throughout the entire process.
From July 2017, the project moved to designing and building Jacaranda Place, two Step-up/Step-down services and two day-programs. Health Consumers Queensland continued to be involved in the work to deliver Youth Mental Health services in Queensland. Again, extensive engagement was a key feature of the ongoing work, with consumers and carers included in decision-making roles across the course of the project, from working on the model of care to providing guidance for the purchase of furniture and fittings to the overarching governance.
More than 21 recruitment processes were undertaken over the entire course of the project (4 years), with more than 70 consumers and carers participating in processes over that time. Their experiences and perspectives were captured and shared through face-to-face consultation, engagement, and presentations by young people and carers about their journeys.