30 May 2019

Budget 2019 Health portfolio: Mental health a $1.9bn priority for health portfolio

4:33 pm on 30 May 2019

Boosting struggling mental health and addiction services dominates the government's health Budget initiatives this year.

Health Minister David Clark before the Budget lock-up.

Health Minister David Clark. The money spent on health in this year's Budget includes the biggest ever spend on mental health, money for DHB capital expenditure, and an extra $40m a year for Pharmac. Photo: RNZ / DOM THOMAS

The mental health package unveiled in the government's Budget today comes with a price tag of $1.9 billion over four years - the largest investment ever in mental health.

At its heart is the establishment of a new universal frontline mental health service costing $445 million and aimed at helping 325,000 people with mild to moderate mental health and addiction needs by 2023-24.

It aims to put trained mental health workers in doctors' clinics, iwi health providers and other health services. That means that "when a GP identifies a mental health or addiction issue they can physically walk with their patient to a trained mental health worker to talk," according to the budget documents.

Read more on the Budget:

That person would have an ongoing relationship with the person in distress, to guide and support their recovery.

No details were given about the number of trained workers needed to support this, but the Budget documents said new workforces will be built to support people, with $212m included for health workforce training and development.

The government said the measures would "transform our approach so that within five years every New Zealander who needs it has access to a range of free services that support and maintain their mental wellbeing."

The new Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission announced by the government yesterday had $2m a year for four years earmarked for its establishment.

Measures to address the country's tragic suicide rate - 668 in 2017-18 - will take up $40m dollars of the overall $1.9bn. This is going towards a new suicide prevention strategy that is a recommendation of the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry and is being worked on by the Health Ministry.

Free counselling will be available for up to 2,500 people - providing four sessions per person - for those bereaved by suicide.

To recognise need in Māori and Pacific communities, up to eight programmes will be funded to "strengthen personal identity and connection to the community".

Another $200m will be spent on new and existing mental health and addiction facilities and expanding the nurses-in schools scheme to decile 5 secondary schools to reach an extra 5600 students.

Corrections will receive $128.3m for mental health and addiction services plus $197m for Housing First to tackle homelessness.

The Budget takes total health spending to $19.87m, of which district health boards will receive $13.98m, or 70 percent. Some $200m for DHB capital investments will be ring-fenced for new and existing mental health and addiction facilities.

Primary care gets a major boost in the Budget - $331m, a 25 percent increase on last year.

Health workforce training - critical in delivering the mental health plans - receives $212m.

Following the mosque attacks, community mental health support in Christchurch receives $5.4m in the next financial year.

Drug-buyer Pharmac also gets an extra $10m a year for the next four years.

  • Budget breach didn't break the law - Treasury
  • Government commits $320 million to tackle family and sexual violence
  • The Wellbeing Budget explained: What you need to know ahead of its unveiling
  • National Party releases 'key details' from Budget
  • Budget 2019 Treasury breach: 'Entirely appropriate behaviour' from National - Bridges
  • Budget info from Treasury under 'multiple and persistent' attack