Council is aware of some concerns in the community regarding the proposed step up, step down mental health facility. The proposed $9.7m facility is a State Government development, commissioned by the Mental Health Commission of WA (MHCWA).

Despite some misinformation in the community, the proposed six-bed facility is not a psychiatric hospital or a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre. Step up, step down facilities offer support programs in a residential setting for people in the local community who do not require hospitalization but need some help to manage their mental health. They are for short stays of up to 30 days.

This model allows residents to remain close to family and friends and not contribute to feelings of isolation or the stigma of mental health issues, which can significantly affect a person’s recovery. The MHCWA selected the site in Bulgarra after considering a number of sites. The Nickol Bay Hospital site does not meet the criteria of a step up, step down facility.

There are two step up, step down facilities in WA – in Joondalup and Rockingham. There is no evidence of violence associated with these facilities and they have positive relations with their neighbours, according to the MHCWA. There is also no evidence that small-scale mental health facilities cause property values in the neighbourhood to decline. Step up, step down facilities are underway in Albany, Broome, Bunbury and Kalgoorlie to increase mental health services across regional WA. There is strong demand for increased mental health services in the Pilbara. Mental health services are struggling to cope with patient loads, which is worrying for people experiencing anxiety or depression. Many members of our community are at risk of mental health issues and although Council has no decision-making authority, the proposed facility would be a valuable addition to our city.