6th August 2017

“The Hub”, is a designated building designed to house several Police related Not for Profit organisations and critically to provide a purpose-built base for the operation of the Retired Police Peer Support Program.

The Retired Police Association (RPA) Peer Support Program (PSP) has only been operating for less than two years and has cobbled together sufficient funds to train up 41 Retired (PSP) staff who operate purely on a voluntary basis throughout Victoria and also cover their own and clients out of pocket expenses.

In this very short time frame, the group are looking after 400 ex-police varying in need from the company to serious mental health issues including depression, PTSD and addictions to gambling, drugs and alcohol.

The group are finding the same experience as the Department of Veterans Affairs where issues, particularly of PTSD, are manifesting later in life.

The CAA has recruited the recently Retired Deputy Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Mike O’Meara who has extensive experience in administering the Psych services of Defence to advise the CAA on the administration of these initiatives and to assist the RPA.

Based on world practises, we can assume that fifteen per cent of ex-members will need some assistance with mental health issues after they cease employment with VicPol.

This probably is replicated with other emergency services, particularly the Ambulance Service. To say that the RPA has seen but the tip of the iceberg is a statement made in fact. It is not unreasonable to warn the Government of a tsunami of mental health issues for ex-police that is not far away and the early intervention of a Peer Support Program may lessen the impact and cost when it arrives.

Funding is a pressing necessity with the program only having sufficient funds to see them through to mid-2017. Apart from the meagre funds of the RPA, the group have received funding from the Police Association to assist with training however the financial viability of the program for the long term must be addressed relatively urgently to allow the practitioners to get on with the job rather than worrying about funding.  I am at a loss as to how PSP has been so successful to date given that they have achieved their success on such a minuscule budget and what they have achieved and is testament to the dedication and ingenuity of the Retired members running the program.

Of a much more pressing necessity is the establishment of ”The Hub” facility which ideally will provide suitable accommodation for the PSP operatives and their administrative support but also house Clinicians to back up the program and act as a referral for some of the more dire cases handled by the PSP.

One of the problems is the stigma either real or perceived that people suffering mental health issues experience.

To that end, we propose to establish a commercial coffee shop as the front door of the services. A space people needing help can attend without fear of stigma. I am important that the Coffee shop is a commercial venture catering for the public to assist with the anonymity of people to access the resources.

The PSP has identified the security of the PSP operatives as a major concern as they are not permitted to attend private dwellings and currently their only option is to meet at local coffee shops. This is proving unsatisfactory by not offering the clients some confidentiality but also by the lack of security should a client have an episode.

We have identified a surplus Government building on the corner of Coventry and StKilda Road, South Bank, adjacent to Victoria Barracks. The building has been vacant for many years and originally housed the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatients Psych Service.

We understand that the building has either been or is in the process of being transferred from the Commonwealth to the State ownership and we understand that part of the ownership process is a condition that the Veterans Art created as part of the rehabilitation within DVA has a permanent display gallery.

We have not inspected the building, but it is highly probable that the needs of the “The Hub” could co-exist with the Gallery. Until we have access to the building, we will not know the suitability.

The concept of “The Hub” requires the ability to develop a commercial coffee shop so location is important, good public transport and car access is essential and sufficient room to provide administration for RPA PSP, Blue Light Vic., CAA, Blue Ribbon, Police Legacy, Operation New Start, Police in Schools, Police Games Administration and clinical services to support RPA PSP.

We would be interested in accessing any alternate surplus Government Buildings preferably reasonably close to but not necessarily in the City.

Bringing all of these organisations together will have the bonus of improving their capacity to perform their various NFP functions and also add to the anonymity of ex-members going to the facility to seek help or undergo treatment.

It will also allow for easier access to these organisations by VicPol and the Government.

We would be pleased to discuss any options in relation to this initiative.