Busselton could soon be home to the only mental health hospital in regional WA after the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage approved the private project. Planning approval was given to the $20 million project last week which proposes a 63-bed private psychiatric hospital to be built 1.5km from the Busselton CBD. Adjacent to the St John Ambulance depot, the hub would be run by Sophron Healthcare and developed in two stages, with the first 32 beds set to be finished by 2022 if approvals continue. The health hub will take in patients aged 16 and older needing treatment for depression, anxiety, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as selected drug and alcohol issues. It will also have a day program for patients to undergo intensive psychological group therapy in an effort to prevent admission and relapse. The project will be the first of its kind in regional WA and have more availability than Bunbury Hospital’s acute psychiatric unit, which only has 30 beds available for adults. Sophron director and Busselton doctor Stephen Proud said the need for mental health resources was growing. “There are no private psychiatric hospitals in WA outside of the Perth metropolitan area,” he said. “This is especially difficult for private country patients needing inpatient psychiatric care because they must travel to Perth and be separated from their families. “Public mental health services in the South West do not admit youth, veterans or older adults ... furthermore adults with depression are only admitted in the public sector when on the edge of suicide, and they are often in a ward with patients with drug psychoses which is unsatisfactory and intimidating.” Dr Proud also noted the South West needed closer to 60 mental health beds to cater for the region. At full capacity, the hospital is expected to employ about 100 professionals. Consultation on the proposal was held earlier this year, with 30 submissions received, 10 of which gave unconditional support, with four supportive subject to conditions. Vasse MP Libby Mettam welcomed the plans, urging locals in need of mental health support to take advantage of the facility once it came to fruition. “There is an outstanding gap in mental health services for residents of Busselton and the lower South-West and I welcome this private hospital, which I understand will also be available for public patients,” she said. “This is a positive step forward in a range of services that are urgently required for mental health patients of all ages needing support locally and I hope local residents will be given prioritisation for the facility when it is built.” With the planning approval successful, the development will move to the hands of the City of Busselton who will be responsible for approving development and construction plans.