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August 2018

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St Vincent’s CEO Angela Nolan, project manager Emmy-Lou Hamley and director of nursing, mental health and addiction medicine Fran Timmons.

St V’s café a safe haven in Fitzroy

Every day dozens of people present to St Vincent’s emergency department experiencing mental health issues.

These people may also be homeless, isolated and lacking established support networks.

Designed by consumers, for consumers, the Safe Haven Café offers a compassionate alternative to attending the ED.

Located in the St Vincent’s Art Gallery, it offers respite in a warm, caring and respectful environment with an emphasis on peer support to empower people looking for assistance but not needing acute care.

‘Navigating the mental health system in times of crisis is a real challenge for consumers and their loved ones,’ said St Vincent’s mental health general manager Jenelle Linton.

‘People often don’t know where to go and can end up in the wrong place.

‘Funded by Better Care Victoria, the Safe Haven Café is an investment in an alternative means of supporting people with mental health issues and empowering them to have more control over their wellbeing.’

Along with tea and coffee, the Safe Haven Café has peer support workers and volunteers with experience of mental health issues, who work alongside mental health professionals to provide a safe, therapeutic space for people needing it.

The initiative was officially opened by St Vincent’s Chief Executive Officer Angela Nolan and Rebecca Power from Better Care Victoria.

‘The Safe Haven Café doesn’t replace clinical mental health interventions but enables people to explore what options may be available to support them and identify relevant local services,’ Ms Nolan said.

‘It will ensure consumers do not end up in the emergency department unnecessarily and encourage them to develop self-management skills to help maintain their mental health on an ongoing basis.’

The Safe Haven Café is modelled on a successful service operating in Hampshire, U.K since 2014.

It has been shown to reduce social isolation for vulnerable people and to help them maintain their mental health on an ongoing basis.

The Safe Haven Café is open Fridays between 6 and 8pm and Saturdays and Sundays between 2 and 8pm.