8 Sep 2019

Underfunded mental health services to get $30m funding boost

11:12 am on 8 September 2019

The government has announced it is boosting the funding of more than 20 existing underfunded mental health services.

Stock photo.

Stock photo. Photo: 123rf.com

It is also allocating $30 million for the creation of new front-line services that will start operating early next year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Health David Clark made the announcement in Auckland this morning.

The investment is part of the $455m the government set aside for front-line mental health services in this year's budget.

Mental health services at 22 general practices and a kaupapa Māori providers across seven District Health Boards will receive $6m of funding.

Those GPs are in Northland, Waitematā, Auckland, Counties Manukau, Lakes, Capital & Coast and Canterbury DHB.

The Ministry of Health will soon ask for proposals to create new, free mental health services worth $30m, in areas currently without them.

The prime minister said the government is committed to taking mental health and addiction seriously.

"Addressing the unmet need for mental health and addiction support is a long-term challenge, but we're taking immediate action to build on existing services.

"It makes sense to start with those providers already offering mental health support but who have not been previously directly funded by government for it, and who did not have certainty of funding going forward.

"This announcement means these existing providers have the certainty they need to invest in their workforce and facilities. And it means the 170,000 people they serve will continue to get the help that they need when they need it," Ms Ardern said.

No caption

Health Minister David Clark and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announce the new funding in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Katie Scotcher

Dr Clark said the government needs to make it easier for people to access help early, to prevent "small issues becoming major problems".

"We want to normalise mental health treatment and get to a place that people feel as comfortable going along to their local GP about a mental health issue as they would any other health issue.

"We've also received consistent feedback about the success of the kaupapa approach of Te Kuwatawata. Its emphasis on whānau and mātauranga (knowledge and understanding) has helped many who haven't found success with mainstream approaches."

It was those sorts of services that needed to be rolled out widely and funding for new front-line services in areas without them will do that, Dr Clark said.

"This will be available nationally, allowing local collaborations of health providers anywhere in New Zealand to put forward proposals for their particular region. We want to see new and existing health providers, iwi and NGO groups put forward their proposals for innovative services to support people living with mental health and addiction issues.

"Multi-year funding will be available, supported by the $455 million over four years provided in the Wellbeing Budget for these services, which will also expand regional coverage over time.

"The Ministry wants flexibility to be built into contracts, so that where evidence shows a particular approach is working well in one place, it can be added in others."

Dr Clark said it will take time to set up the workforce and required services, but today's announcement proves the government is addressing the issue of mental health.

Green Party mental health spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick welcomed today's announcement and said it's critical mental health support is ramped up, so people can get care when they need it.

"For years, we've seen community mental health services popping up to help people who are falling through gaps in the system. These solutions are woven deeply into local communities, and we're proud to see them receive a guarantee of funding today to expand their crucial services.

"Among the biggest barriers to seeking mental health support are stigma and lack of services. By funding mental health services at your local GP, we've sought to solve both of those issues.

"If you're struggling, you deserve help. You're entitled to it if you break your arm, and mental health should be no different."

Primary Health Organisations and practices to receive funding:

Northland DHB

Primary Health Organisation: Mahitahi Hauora

Practices: Bush Road Medical Centre, Kerimed Doctors, Otangarei Health Centre

Auckland DHB

Primary Health Organisation: ProCare

Practices: University of Auckland, Turuki Panmure Practice

Primary Health Organisation: Total Healthcare

Practices: Local Doctors Glen Innes

Primary Health Organisation: National Hauora Coalition

Practices: Ōrākei Health Service

Waitematā DHB

Primary Health Organisation: ProCare

Practices: Peninsula Medical Centre, Health New Lynn

Counties Manukau DHB

Primary Health Organisation: ProCare

Practices: Māngere Health Centre

Primary Health Organisation: Total Healthcare

Practices: Local Doctors Dawson

Lakes DHB

Primary Health Organisation: Pinnacle Midland Network

Practices: Pihanga Health, Taupo Health, Taupō Medical Centre, The Lake Surgery

Capital and Coast DHB

Primary Health Organisation: Tū Ora Compass

Practices: Porirua Union Health, Mauri Ora Victoria University, Mana Medical, Hora te Pai

Canterbury DHB

Primary Health Organisation: Pegasus

Practices: Doctors on Riccarton, Piki Te Ora

Primary Health Organisation: Waitaha

Practices: Three Rivers Ashburton

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs