8 Sep 2017

Youth clinic forced to turn hundreds away

10:15 am on 8 September 2017

A Wellington one-stop youth health clinic has had to turn about 800 people away because a lack of funding means it cannot take any new clients.

Many of those young people needed help with mental illness and advocates say it is a tragedy that services such as Evolve Youth Service aren't able to get the funding they need.

Evolve Youth Service is a one-stop shop that gives young people access to doctors, nurses, youth support workers and permanent counsellors.

One former Evolve client, Henry*, said it was one of the few places as a trans queer person he felt safe.

"One of the greatest things about Evolve is they may not necessarily know directly how to help you, but they will always go ask somebody how to and they will always advocate.

"In terms of especially mental health stuff they will always follow up people and make sure that you get the right services. And a lot of it is about choice, so they let you choose what you want in terms of healthcare and mental health," he said.

Platform Trust is a national network of NGOs that deal with mental health and addiction.

Its chief executive, Marion Blake, said the closure of Evolve's books was a tragedy, particularly as it provided the sort of service young people actually turned up to.

"They do more than one thing, they help young people with housing advice, with contraception advice and then talk about the mental health stuff and also the camaraderie of a whole lot of young people," she said.

"It's really sad. I mean one-stop shops and youth services are exactly what the government are saying that they want," he said.

Henry said as a result, young people weren't able to get the services they needed, and were going without.

He knew of one young man from a poor family studying at a polytech and surviving on a student allowance .

"Because he's at a tech place that doesn't offer primary health, like Massey or Vic does, he has to pay out of pocket to go to Massey. It also means he can't access any primary health places that actually know how to advocate for him," he said.

Last month, the government announced a $100 million package over four years to improve mental health services, with a focus on prevention and early intervention, targeting school children and young people.

Evolve youth Service, young people wait to see a health care professional

Why Evolve works, according to one of its nurses: "The security that you can come in somewhere and shut the door and speak your darkest stuff, not just follow, push the button and go to the next screen." Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Kieran Monaghan, a nurse who works at Evolve, remained sceptical the government would achieve its aims, saying it was too focused on apps.

"The thing that is important I think for young people is some of that face-to-face contact ... The security that you can come in somewhere and shut the door and speak your darkest stuff, not just follow, push the button and go to the next screen.

"Relationship is everything."

In a statement, Capital & Coast DHB acknowledged Evolve provided an important service for young people in the community.

It said it had been working with Evolve on how to expand its service and earlier this year provided extra funding to employ a part-time GP and enable Evolve to reopen its books.

Evolve said its board was still working on when it would open its books again, but was not certain when this could happen.

In the meantime, the DHB said young people who were unable to access Evolve and were not in crisis could access services through universities, GPs, sexual health and school-based services, and others.

* Henry is not this client's real name. You can hear more about mental health services, their positive impact and the challenges facing them on Insight, just after 8am on Sunday Morning with Wallace Chapman.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.