New Mental Health Facility for the Cook Islands

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A new mental health facility is planned for construction at the Rarotonga Hospital. This facility has been a priority for Te Marae Ora (TMO) Ministry of Health for many years and will soon come to fruition.

Te Marae Ora’s Clinical Psychologist Dr Evangelene Daniela-Wong says “there is a dire need for facilities that can allow us to care for patients with severe mental health disorders. Unfortunately, some patients have had to be placed in the Arorangi Prison for their safety and the safety of others in the community”.

The building plans have come through several redesign phases to ensure TMO’s model of care – promoting mental health wellbeing and enabling reintegration of patients as productive members of society, can be achieved.

The final design features a therapeutic, non-institutional and safe environment to facilitate compassionate mental health treatment. The building will have the capacity to accommodate four (4) patients at a time. Only patients requiring acute care will be admitted.

CIIC’s Sally Hosking-Naea, the architect for the project, says “the design allows for the building to be expanded should the need arise in the future. Key therapeutic features embedded in the design include internal and external courtyards, natural lighting and views of the landscape, safe and comfortable resting areas, and warm finishing tones”.  

TMO currently employs a small yet dedicated team of six (6) mental health professionals. Strategies to increase staffing capability in this specialised field forms part of the TMO 2021-2025 workforce plan.  The facility is intended to complement existing community-based mental health services and outreach programmes.

The tender for construction works is currently being advertised, with works programmed to commence from January 2022 and ready for commissioning by June 2022. The project is delivered as a partnership between Te Marae Ora and Cook Islands Investment Corporation and funded by the Cook Islands Government.

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