The Government of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, is looking to reduce the strain on emergency units by redirecting individuals with drug and alcohol-related behavioural disturbances to specialised Safe Assessment Units.

These units, being established at the Prince of Wales and Nepean hospitals, aim to create a safe and “low stimulus” environment for vulnerable patients overwhelmed by the typical emergency department setting.

There, patients can be admitted, assessed, and treated by a multidisciplinary team encompassing mental health, clinical pharmacology, and alcohol and drug experts.

The government stated that similar care models have shown positive results, such as better patient outcomes, lesser need for sedation and restraint, and lower length of stay at emergency departments.

Both units are expected to begin accepting patients early next year and will complement the existing Psychiatry and Non-Prescription Drug and Alcohol (PANDA) Unit at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, which was set up in 2020.

Additionally, post-discharge support will be offered via association with community alcohol and drug services, community mental health providers, and other healthcare and community organisations.

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The units will be co-located within each hospital’s emergency department.

NSW Minister for Health Ryan Park said: “We are acting to reduce pressure on our busy emergency departments by providing more appropriate care and treatment to drug and alcohol presentations.

“These units create a safe environment, not only for patients presenting with disturbances associated with alcohol and drugs but also for our frontline health workers and other patients presenting to our emergency departments.

“As Health Minister, I am embracing new and innovative initiatives to relieve pressure on our emergency departments by ensuring people receive the appropriate care when and where they need it.”​