16 Apr 2018

Rural mental health group says govt rebuffed call for cash

10:37 am on 16 April 2018

A rural-based suicide prevention scheme will grind to a halt in June after its organisers were rebuffed in their quest for more money to pay for it.

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Photo: 123rf.com

The group, Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand, has run suicide prevention workshops for rural GPs and researched other areas of rural health for three years.

But the fourth year of its programme will be stalled after a plea for more support from the Rural Communities Minister Damien O'Connor in Napier on Thursday came to nothing.

The Alliance chairman Martin London said he was appalled.

"We are all completely devastated and somewhat bewildered by what we think is an ill-considered decision," Dr London said.

"It just smacks of another kick in the guts for rural health, particularly when our organisation is so closely aligned with what the government says it is trying to achieve for rural New Zealand."

Dr London said the alliance had been receiving $250,000 a year from the Ministry of Health but needed $600,000 to run its programmes.

"We have already identified the top five priorities negatively impacting the health and wellbeing of our rural people and what's more we've also come up with the solutions for addressing them.

"We first put our funding proposal to government back in November, so we think we've been more than patient and six months was ample time for them to consider our case."

Dr London said rural New Zealand had a population of about 600,000 people, making it bigger than the second largest metropolitan area in the country.

But it did not get anything like that level of attention, and there were comparable organisations to the alliance in Australia and the US which had been funded by governments for years.

His comments come after other criticisms, most recently by Dalton Kelly, chief executive at New Zealand Rural General Practice Network.

He said most rural doctors and nurses were in the 55 to 64 age group and replacing them was going to be difficult.

Dr London, who is a rural locum himself, said his organisation wanted just $1 for every person and did not get it.

"We are retrenching, we are going into hibernation, we will maintain a basic secretariat and start casting about for other funding options, but it is a bit difficult to see at the moment."

Mr O'Connor has been approached for comment.

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.

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