General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK CVO MC (Retd) and NSW Minister for Transport and Veterans David Elliott on Thursday turned the first sod for a major redevelopment at specialist mental health hospital, St John of God Richmond Hospital, ahead of the facility’s Veterans’ Day commemoration.
The $65 million redevelopment will deliver contemporary mental health care that builds connection, improves lives and transforms the way care is provided, particularly for first responders and veterans.
It will include 112 private rooms and a wellness centre with gym and indoor pool, with the historic 130-year-old Belmont House remaining a prominent and treasured feature of the new design.
Minister for Transport and Veterans David Elliott was delighted to join Sir Peter Cosgrove at the event which marks the start of the delivery of much needed mental health services for veterans.
“The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has shown Australia has work to do on the repatriation of those who served our nation.
“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,” Mr Elliott said.
Joining Sir Peter and Mr 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.
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. It is supported by a comprehensive campaign to raise funds from government and philanthropic sources to improve the treatment journey and lives of veterans and first responders and Sir Peter is the Patron of the campaign.
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 defence force, 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.
For more information about St John of God Richmond Hospital please visit sjog.org.au/richmond
With thanks to St John of God Health Care.