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This project was supported by the former Better Care Victoria Innovation Fund.

Lead organisation

St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne


One in nine patients who presented to the St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne (SVHM) emergency department (ED) from 2015–17 cited mental health as their primary reason for attending.

However, EDs are complex clinical environments that are not always the most appropriate point of care for these individuals, with some mental health consumers describing these settings as traumatising, threatening, unsafe and dehumanising.

Through Safe Haven Café, SVHM helped improve mental health consumers’ experience of care and social connectedness by providing a non-clinical, therapeutic alternative.

Aims of the project

  • Create a physical environment that is regarded by vulnerable consumers as a place of safety and respite, and a space they feel comfortable returning to
  • Ensure consumers are aware of the existence of the Safe Haven Café as an alternative to presenting to the ED
  • Enhance consumers’ capacity for self-management and improve their resilience
  • Reduce the number of ED presentations for non-emergency mental health issues, releasing capacity in the health system and providing more appropriate care


  • Improved consumers' experience of care
  • Increased consumers' sense of social connectedness in the local community
  • Reduced mental health presentations to the SVHM ED, releasing capacity and potentially reducing treatment delays for other ED patients
  • Delivered estimated savings of more than $30,000 per annum by diverting consumers from the ED to a more appropriate model of care


September 2020 – Safe Haven Café was integrated into SVHM’s mental health services and inspired the introduction of four new services, with hybrid models set up in Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia. SVHM also trialled partnerships with non-government agencies to help Safe Haven Café consumers realise their self-management plans outside of the café’s operating hours. 

The Safe Haven Café project was awarded the St Vincent’s Health Australia Innovation and Excellence Award in 2019.

Project summary

Video transcript

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