$128m boost to support mental health of offenders

12:04 pm on 17 June 2019

The government has announced that mental health and addiction services for offenders will receive a $128.3 million boost.

Labour MP Kelvin Davis

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The money, which will be paid out over four years, had been set aside last month and is part of the $1.9 billion investment in mental health in the Wellbeing Budget.

As part of the investment, there will be an expansion of social worker and trauma counselling, services for family and whanau and after-care support.

Up to four additional alcohol and drug treatment programmes will be established in prisons, in addition to enhancing the pre-existing 11 programmes.

Once fully implemented, the expanded mental health services will support up to 2,310 additional offenders with mild to moderate mental health needs per year.

An increase in the number of mental health clinicians from 38 to 63 will provide services across prisons and community sites nationwide. Additionally, 15 support workers will support clinicians working with offenders in the community.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis said there can't be an expectation to reduce re-offending without dealing with the issues that landed people in before the courts in the first place.

"Ninety-one percent of people who enter prison have a lifetime diagnosis of either substance abuse or mental health issues, so we know there's a huge problem that we need to address and we can't expect people to have better outcomes if we don't address the underlying causes," he said.

Mr Davis said the funding will also make 30 places available for those with intensive mental health needs, to have access to supported living.

"They can go into supported living so they have the best chance of making sure that their issues don't manifest themselves out in the communities," he said.

"If we support people struggling with mental health or addiction issues, we make it easier for them to engage in education, employment and rehabilitation activities, and develop positive relationships with whānau and support networks. That means they can get their lives back on track."

This investment includes:

  • A whānau service for the family of offenders who need mental health services. Up to 275 families will be supported per year.
  • Supported living accommodation for offenders with intensive mental health needs who are transitioning to the community. Up to 30 offenders will be supported in total each year.
  • Expanded social worker and trauma counselling services to help offenders reconnect with their whānau/children, address personal trauma, and transition back into the community. Up to 800 prisoners will be supported each year.
  • Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) treatment in prisons. Up to four additional treatment programmes will be established and the 11 existing programmes will be enhanced, enabling up to 204 participants to access treatment per year.
  • Expanding AOD testing and harm reduction support interventions in the community will provide AOD tests and alcohol detection anklets to ensure they avoid drink driving.
  • AOD aftercare support services. Offenders will be able to access the relapse support prevention they need. The number of aftercare workers will increase to ensure prisoners who have completed AOD treatment programmes are supported to maintain their treatment gains both while in prison and on their return to the community.
  • RecoverRing, an 0800 AOD counselling and support service for people and whānau needing lower level AOD support, will also continue to be available in both prison and the community.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs