Easing hospital pressures for mental health in the ACT


Canberrans experiencing mental health conditions are spending less time in hospital due to services such as the Garran Step Up Step Down program.

The program supports people in the community to transition between levels of care as their mental health needs change, allowing them to ‘step up’ from the community or ‘step-down’ from a hospital setting. Since opening its doors in early 2021, the Garran Step Up Step Down has provided support to over 140 clients.

A study conducted by Stride Mental Health Ltd, the facility managers, showed that many ‘step down’ clients had spent the entirety of the two weeks prior to their stay at the facility in hospital, and many ‘step up’ clients reported that they would have sought admission to hospital if not for Step Up Step Down.

Upon completion of the program, clients recorded significant improvements across a range of mental health indicators aimed at measuring distress, negative thought patterns and their ability to manage their mental health outside of a clinical setting. It was also found they were less likely to need hospitalisation for their mental health issues.

In the last financial year, the facility maintained an occupancy rate of over 91 per cent and its residents averaged almost sixty hours in group-based supports during their time with the program. Over 90 per cent of people who attended the program stayed out of hospital within the first 14 days of their exit from the facility.

Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson said the Step Up Step Down facility in Garran is a critical part of the ACT’s mental health system to deliver the right care, at the right time and for the right duration for Canberrans.

“These findings highlight the value of having support for people across the whole spectrum of mental health care. While early intervention is the priority to support people before their mental health issues become more heightened, we recognise that there are some who require higher levels of care beyond community services. Initiatives like this have shown they can prevent people reaching a crisis point and needing to go to hospital,” Minister Davidson said.

“The Step Up Step Down program is empowering Canberrans take control of their mental health with prevention and recovery-focused care, allowing them to return to their home and community sooner.”

The Garran site is a six-bed facility which provides care in a rehabilitative residential setting, with psychosocial support available onsite 24 hours a day. Clinical support is available seven days a week for Canberrans during their two-week stay.

Stride is an experienced provider of transitional residential and psychosocial mental health services who operate residential mental health services across New South Wales, ACT, Victoria and Queensland. They partnered with Woden Community Service to assist with the transition back to community living.

Quotes attributable to Drikus van der Merwe, CEO of Stride:

“Stride is excited by the impact of this service that has supported people to continue their mental health recovery in the community.”

“Stride is dedicated to providing specialist services that improve the lifelong mental health of children, young people and adults. We provide services to support people at all stages of their mental health journey, from early intervention services through to supporting people with ongoing and complex needs.”

“We look forward to deepening our partnership with ACT Health Directorate and Woden Community Service so that we become an even stronger supporter of community mental health in Canberra.”