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New mental health facility to cost $1m

Tuesday 15 February 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Health, National

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New mental health facility to cost $1m
An artist impression of the facility. Each bedroom will have an ensuite bathroom. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/22021405

Rarotonga’s long-awaited mental health facility is set to cost $1 million.

Te Marae Ora (TMO) Ministry of Health has released the figure, confirming it will cover the building, landscaping, fixtures, fittings and furnishings. 

It is estimated the facility will be completed in July/August, “a slight delay to the original completion date of June, due to supply chain matters”, a Te Marae Ora spokeswoman said.

So far contractors have completed a retaining wall at the site, a driveway extension and most of the site clearance.

Land Holdings Limited submitted a successful tender after the Cook Islands Investment Corporation on behalf of Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health, invited tenders for the construction in November.

The building will have the capacity to accommodate four patients at a time and only patients requiring acute care will be admitted.

Cook Islands Investment Corporation design and project officer Sally Hosking-Naea, the architect for the project, said the design would allow for the building to be expanded should the need arise in the future.

Key therapeutic features embedded in the design include internal and external courtyards, natural lighting and views of the landscape, safe and comfortable resting areas, and warm finishing tones, she said.   

In November Te Marae Ora clinical psychologist Dr Evangelene Daniela-Wong said there is a dire need for facilities to allow for the care of patients with severe mental health disorders.

Dr Daniela-Wong acknowledged it was unfortunate that patients have had to be placed in Arorangi Prison for their safety and the safety of others in the community.

Because the population is so small, it had been hard to financially justify a new building. 

The increase in mental health cases and numbers, and the subsequent need for a space that can promote recovery and wellbeing, and safety had become paramount.

The building plans had come through several redesign phases “to ensure TMO’s model of care – promoting mental health wellbeing and enabling reintegration of patients as productive members of society, can be achieved”.

The final design features a “therapeutic, non-institutional and safe environment to facilitate compassionate mental health treatment”.

In November Dr Daniela-Wong confirmed Te Marae Ora would employ more staff, with a particular interest in non-clinical staff with therapeutic and life skills, like arts and music, to work at the facility.

All staff would receive escalation, calming and restraint, and mental health training; each shift would have a mental health specialist on duty.

Strategies to increase staffing capability in the specialised field form part of the health ministry’s 2021-2025 workforce plan. 

The project is delivered as a partnership between Te Marae Ora and Cook Islands Investment Corporation, and funded by the Cook Islands Government.