Showcasing: Emergency Department Navigator

Western Sydney

Lead agency
Child and Youth Mental Health Services, Western Sydney Local Health District

Living Well Domain
Right type of Care 

Program overview

The Child and Youth Mental Health Emergency Department Navigator project (ED Navigator project) provides a trauma informed approach to supporting children and young people experiencing an acute mental health crisis with complex needs who access Westmead Hospital emergency department. The project provides additional support and linkage assisting the young person to access appropriate supports to meet their care needs in the community, reducing the risk of self-harm and suicide. 

The ED Navigator project is a Commonwealth funded pilot initiative between Western Sydney Local Health District Child and Youth Mental Health Services and Western Sydney Primary Health Network. 


A high number of young people present to Westmead Hospital seeking support for a mental health crisis, often in the context of self-harm or feeling suicidal. However, an ED is not always the best option for specialist trauma informed comprehensive care. Targeted trauma informed psychological support in conjunction with medical support is often needed. High levels of presentations at emergency departments can also lead to long waiting times and may be a stressful environment for young people and their families.  


The ED Navigator project provides a dedicated clinical nurse consultant (CNC) who works side by side with the medical team to facilitate access to appropriate and effective specialist community care for four weeks post ED presentation. The navigator position is unique to Western Sydney and has been instrumental in shortening the length of time it takes to access the most appropriate comprehensive clinical care and leading in more effective referrals and engagement with community services. 


In the first 12 months the CNC Navigator has seen 71% of young people presenting at Westmead ED with mental health concerns. The role has led to a significant reduction in re-presentation of young people in the Western Sydney area by providing targeted trauma informed child and youth specific mental health care.  Only 3% of the young people who received support from this program presented again to hospital compared to 20% of young people who were not seen by the CNC Navigator. 

Next steps

The impact of the ED navigator project pilot program exceeded service expectation and has continued to receive positive feedback from young people, their families and carers as well as from the general community both verbally and through satisfaction surveys. The program will continue post pilot providing comprehensive support for young people presenting in a mental health crisis in Western Sydney.