25 May 2017

Budget 2017: What about mental health?

8:59 pm on 25 May 2017

The Budget's mental health increase is disappointing and appears to have been put together at the last minute, some advocates say.

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The Budget includes an extra $224m for mental health services over four years. Photo: 123 RF

The government budget unveiled today boosts total health funding to $16.77 billion - $879 million more, and the biggest increase in 11 years.

It includes an extra $224m for mental health over four years; $100m of this is for a new cross-government social investment fund for innovative new proposals to tackle mental health issues.

As well, there is: $4.1m for the Ministry of Social Development to trial integrated employment and mental health services; $11.6m to help the Corrections Department manage and support prisoners at risk of self harm; and $8m to extend the Rangatahi Suicide Prevention Fund.

The Mental Health Foundation said it amounted to a good step in the right direction.

Its chief executive, Shaun Robinson, said mental health funding had been neglected in recent years, while demand had increased dramatically, leading to a system under considerable stress.

"So this is going to go a good step towards relieving some of that stress."

He said mental health services had a strong direction and momentum in the 1990s but that had been lost since.

"Today we got an injection of funding, which is a good step forward, but what we really need is to also have the strategy that the minister is talking about, and this funding needs to be guided by a new blueprint, a clear direction that picks up on the learnings and the new research and the new ways of of doing things that have emerged in the last few years."

Auckland-based psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald, who was a spokesperson for the recent People's Mental Health Review, said the funding boost was inadequate.

He said when broken down to extra funding per year across the 20 district health boards, it would not go far enough.

"I don't think that actually what we've seen in the Budget today is going to be enough to fix those problems that we see in acute services when people present in crisis. It's certainly not going to be enough to actually leave New Zealanders unconcerned that mental health services are coming right."

Mr MacDonald said the funding increase for mental health was a small percentage only of what was needed.

"Since 2008 funding increases for mental health represents a 28 percent increase in spending, despite a massive 60 percent increase in demand.

"This overall package does feel as if it's something that's been put together at the last minute to address some strong public concerns that have clearly grown over the last three months," Mr MacDonald added.

Want more detail? Read RNZ's full Budget coverage here.

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