Mindgardens – a ground-breaking response to this challenge

Mindgardens will address the leading burden of illness through the provision of:

1] Transformative Research Hub

2] Clinical Services and eHealth

3] Training and Community Support

4] Technological Advances and discoveries.

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A Transformative Research Hub

Mindgardens will create a neuroscience precinct that will be transformative, integrated and a servant to our communities across the State. It will be a trusted expert entity to bring government and community attention to these major health issues.

It will include a purpose-built facility to host over 700 clinical and basic neuroscience researchers with shared interests and objectives.

The transformative nature of this research hub will be generated by the following:

  • Co-location of a diverse group of researchers, with frequent intellectual exchange and the development of a ‘critical mass’ in many areas of research, as well as formal and informal collaborations with like-minded researchers across the State and beyond.
  • Integrated approaches to topics such as healthy ageing and health promotion across the life span. Improvement in management of comorbidities with better training of mental health workers in physical health skills and of general medical staff in mental health skills.
  • The coming together of basic neuroscientists with clinical and applied researchers, and their interaction with clinicians, social scientists, engineers, physicists, mathematicians and anthropologists.
  • The availability of the best technology for neuroimaging, neurophysiology, neurogenetics, analytical chemistry, drug development, brain stimulation and computer simulation to enhance research and treatment opportunities.
    Working closely with the Scientia Clinical Research facility so that emerging discoveries can be brought to human trials and applied within treatment services.
  • A bioinformatics and biostatistics hub to support genomics and other research using large data sets and ‘big data’. The new Centre for Data Analysis at UNSW will be part of this development.
  • An opportunity to link with and support Primary Health Networks and GPs in the diagnosis and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders.

An Apex of Clinical Services Centre for NSW

The value of Mindgardens will be its seamless combination of research and clinical service as it is a true alliance of the Health Service, the University and the Medical Research Institutes (MRIs) and can leverage some of the finest clinicians and researchers in the country.

Since complex disorders are common, often chronic, and are ideally treated close to the affected individual’s place of residence, these services are conceptualised as being highly specialised and of a tertiary nature, at the apex of a network of services that permeate the state.

Mindgardens will play a leadership role to help plan and organise the services so that patients have easy and appropriate access and their journey to wellness is not fragmented. These services will include:

Tertiary clinics

Working in partnership with the Local Health Districts, private practitioners, hospitals, and private hospitals, we will develop tertiary clinics to provide comprehensive assessments and treatment recommendations.

Models for this include the Neuropsychiatry Clinic of the Neuropsychiatric Institute at Prince of Wales Hospital, the Depression, Bipolar Disorder and Psychology Clinics of Black Dog Institute, the UNSW Child Behaviour Research Clinic, and NeuRA’s Frontier (Frontotemporal Dementia) Research Clinic. These clinics provide a much needed clinical service, promote clinical research and are excellent resources for training.

The clinics could evaluate over 10,000 complex case patients each year to facilitate their ongoing care, targeting treatment-resistant schizophrenia, other young-onset dementias and patients with complex co-morbidities (e.g. mental illness and substance use, brain injury and mental disorders, neuropsychiatry of developmental disability).

Centres of research excellence

A number of centres of research excellence (CRE) already exist within the groups that will form Mindgardens, including; the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS), NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Brain Recovery, and Centre of Research Excellence in Suicide Prevention (CRESP).

Others are planned with focus on Aboriginal brain health, adolescent mental disorders, etc. The CRE is a good example of the value of bringing researchers and clinicians together and their funding by the NHMRC must be complemented by funds from the Department of Health. The outcomes of these Centres are tangible, with a measurable impact on the health of the citizens.

eHealth

Mindgardens will have a major focus on eHealth for the following reasons:

  • mental disorders are common and face-to-face treatment are often difficult to access for all sufferers, in most settings
  • web-based interventions have been shown to be highly effective and are accessible to all, at very little cost
  • Mindgardens researchers have a strong track record in this field and have developed platforms which can be easily scaled up
  • there is a strong component of monitoring of outcome so that the programs can be continuously improved
  • for preventative health at the population level this is indeed the most effective method of delivery. The track record of Mindgardens partners in this field is impressive. For instance, eHealth interventions such as MyCompass (which promotes resilience and wellbeing) have reached approximately 15,000 young people each year and there is a huge opportunity to further develop new cost effective online interventions.

Clinical Trials Engagement

This will ensure that all patients are given the opportunity to participate in clinical trials.

In this way not only will they receive best practice care and treatment, but additionally they will also be able to both gain from and contribute to developing even better methods of treatment and care.

Training, Education and Community Support

A large cadre of well-trained professionals is needed to meet the future needs of patients with neuropsychiatric disorders, in particular dementia. Creating professional and non-professional education for 125,000 strong NSW Health Workforce and the social support workforce who work in nursing homes and other organisations will be a key feature of Mindgardens.

Education will involve clinical training and professional training for health professionals, workshops / programs for health care workers, and train-the-trainer programs for content and evaluation. The partnership with UNSW will ensure educational standards and rigour in testing. Mindgardens will also support carers and families by providing best practice information and guidelines about illness management and patient recovery.

Educational resources will be provided to NGO and other training organisations and directly to families via the Internet.

Technological Advances, Discoveries and their Commercialisation

The development of a comprehensive eHealth platform linked to patient data will drive innovation, industry partnerships and offer avenues to young researchers and scientists to “start-up”, similar to other industry / health precincts, especially in the USA. The intersection of technology and health is an area of expanding growth.

Data collection via real patients will validate and drive this innovation. Mindgardens will develop relationships with New South Innovations (the commercialisation arm of UNSW) and have direct links with NGOs, venture capitalists and the drugs and devices industry to exploit its intellectual property for the benefit of future research and the good of all NSW citizens.