A pioneering project to bring a specialist mental health centre for young people to Cornwall is a step closer to reality.
The Invictus Trust has been campaigning for a specialist facility for young people aged 13-25 since the death of Ben Cowburn, aged 18, at the Longreach unit in Redruth in December 2010.
Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CfT) is now developing a business case for the £5million scheme and a Health Minister gave full support to the project while on a trip to Cornwall.
Alison Cook, associate director of children’s services at the Cornwall Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The board agreed to move forward by securing a P21+ partner to develop the full business case for the new unit.
“The Trust remains in dialogue with its commissioners about the need for his unit.”
P21+ is a list of nationally approved design and construction contractors who can work with the NHS on new build or refurbishment projects.
While in Truro, Health Minister Norman Lamb MP said: “I’m enormously attracted by this idea. I know the teenage years are a vulnerable period in your life and you can have all sorts of mixed emotions.”
At the moment teenagers lose access to a range of services when they become adults in the eyes of the law at 18.
“The idea of taking away mental health services when you are 18 and you may or may not get access to adult mental health services is ridiculous. It’s intolerable to have that cliff edge.”
Mr Lamb said he was “strongly in favour” of the principle of a specialist mental health unit for people aged 13-25.
The Invictus Trust was set up by Ben Cowburn’s family and works to raise awareness and provide information around mental health issues for young people. The West Briton has supported its Project Invictus campaign for a new youth mental health facility.
Ben’s father, Steve, welcomed the news from CfT and the Health Minister.
He said: “This means that the mental health profesionals now accept there is a need for a youth mental health unit in Cornwall. We now await the commissioners’ views who will sanction the funding needed. We are also delighted that two sites have been identified and that builders are now costing the architect’s plans.
“We remain appalled, that as we speak between 10 and 15 Cornish children and adolescents with severe mental health issues are being cared for hundreds of miles away from home, as no beds exist in the Duchy. We continue to work to address this and ensure that both high quality in-patient and out-patient care exists in Cornwall for Cornish young people.”