THE long-over due Banksia upgrade is a "very high priority", the state's Mental Health Minister says, as a new report reveals mental health admissions to the region's hospitals have more than doubled in the past five years.
Minister Bronnie Taylor visited the mental health unit during a trip to Tamworth on Wednesday, speaking with staff about the proposed upgrade.
"It definitely is a very high priority," Ms Taylor said.
"I just want to reassure [the community] it is absolutely something that we are discussing, [Tamworth MP] Kevin Anderson is on the case and we are working towards a really good resolution for Tamworth."
The report by MediBank said although mental health admissions to New England hospitals had more than doubled from 2014 to 2018, the increase could be due to greater community awareness.
"One thing we know, is that we don't want mental health patients in emergency departments - the best place for them is in the community with the wrap-around services they need," Ms Taylor said.
The proposed upgrade has been mentioned as a line item in two state government budgets, however no price tag has been put on the project.
No upgrade can take place until Hunter New England Health (HNEH) finalises a clinical services plan, a region-wide review of current services and what additional services are needed.
Ms Taylor couldn't give a timeline on either the clinical services plan or the Banksia upgrade.
"I know I sound like a politician, but there is a $700-million mental health infrastructure fund, Banksia is flagged and we need to work towards it," she said.
"I'm well aware of the issues and I'm working closely with Kevin to try and get things going.
"Banksia is on my radar, I'm going there today and I'm listening."
Although consultations are still ongoing and no designs have been drawn up, Ms Taylor suggested the new facility would have plenty of "therapeutic living spaces".
"We've put a lot of investment in to therapeutic living spaces within mental health facilities," Ms Taylor said.
"They need to be more homely, they need to be more reflective of the practice that we have now."
A HNEH spokesperson said more than 350 staff, patients and community members had been consulted for the clinical services plan.