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Breaking new ground for $65m mental health care hospital for veterans and first responders

On the 4th of August, General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK CVO MC (Retd) and NSW Minister for Transport and Veterans David Elliott today turned the first sod for the 65 million dollar redevelopment at specialist mental health hospital, St John of God Richmond (NSW), ahead of the facility’s Veterans’

Day commemoration.

The redevelopment is designed to deliver contemporary mental health care that builds connection, improves lives and transforms the way care is provided, particularly for first responders and veterans. The facility will include 112 private rooms and a wellness centre with gym and indoor pool. The historic 130-year-old Belmont House will remain as a prominent and treasured feature of the new design.

Joining Sir Peter and Minister Elliott for the sod turning was James McMahon AM DSC DSM, former SAS commander and St John of God Health Care Board member, and Wiggles member Anthony Field who is also a veteran.

In his address Minister Elliott remarked that “a nation has no higher moral obligation than to look after its veterans. Our diggers deserve the greatest respect and the best possible care for both their physical and mental wellbeing.”

The expanded hospital campus will integrate a planned National Centre for Psychological Trauma and Translational Research, which will act as a vehicle for change in addressing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions. It forms the first step of a major project with a vision to build a mental health system, translational research and satellite sites in a number of jurisdictions, orientated around the needs of those who need care.

Sir Peter is the patron of the ongoing campaign to secure funds government and philanthropic sources to improve the treatment journey and lives of veterans and first responders.

St John of God Richmond Hospital Chief Executive Officer, Colman O’Driscoll, said it was most appropriate the sod turning coincided with the hospital’s Veterans’ Day occasion.

“We are working towards transforming mental health care, which affects 20% of former or serving members of the ADF, and 15% of first responders.

“On admission, 70% of military veterans and 85% of first responders are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” he said.

“The new campus will provide a place of sanctuary and healing where veterans, first responders and other clients can reconnect with their families, friends and communities so they can realise their full potential and live their best life. It will be a platform from which we can transform the entire experience of mental health care for everyone who comes here.”

“We are delighted to have Sir Peter as Patron for this ambitious program to help raise awareness of this important issue affecting so many in our community.”

Chair of Trauma and Mental Health, Professor Zachary Steel, said the trauma and mental health impacts of working as a first responder can affect a person for many years.

“Some people don’t seek help for years afterwards - but whatever stage they are at, it is crucial that our first responders and veterans can access the mental health expertise they need,” he said.

St John of God Health Care is working towards establishing a number of satellite centres with access to trauma recovery programs, telehealth facilities, accommodation and gymnasiums that would support first responders’ and veterans’ mental health needs.

Care and treatment will continue throughout the redevelopment phase, with works expected

to be completed late in 2023.

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