Australia’s first specialist psychiatric alcohol and drug unit opens in Sydney


Australia’s first specialist psychiatric alcohol and drug unit opens its doors this week.
The $17.7 million six-bed unit, opened by NSW Mental Health Minister Bronnie Taylor, will provide specialist care to patients experiencing psychotic episodes related to drugs or alcohol.
It’s a timely development amid a brewing mental health crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
The PANDA (psychiatric alcohol and non-prescription drug assessment) Unit has been purposely built next to the emergency department at St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst so its staff can draw on the expertise of mental health, clinical pharmacology and alcohol & drug teams.
They will look after patients who may be sectioned under the Mental Health Act and need short-stay observation, assessment and treatment planning before discharge.
Associate Professor Paul Preisz, director of emergency at the hospital, said the unit would support vulnerable patients who may be overwhelmed by the ED and more likely to leave before a care plan can be put in place.
“Our new specialist PANDA team will provide a safe and quiet space to better assess and treat these patients, with the aim of developing a more robust framework prior to discharge,” he says.
Ms Taylor said the unit’s environment would enable those experiencing complex mental illness and addiction to start their journey to recovery.
The unit was funded by a $12 million grant from the State Government, plus philanthropic support from charitable group Supporters In the Resuscitation of Emergency Department Needs at St Vincent’s (SIRENS).
Alcohol consumption and mental distress has increased significantly in the wake of shutdowns, job losses, financial stress and relationship breakdowns triggered by the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year.


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