23 Jan 2018

Mental health inquiry: How will it work?

6:09 pm on 23 January 2018

A ministerial inquiry into mental health and addiction has just been announced by the government. How will it work?

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Photo: RNZ

Health Minister David Clark said most of the hearings would be held in public, but there might be special circumstances.

"The inquiry has subpoena powers because we have heard from some people working in the sector that they feel vulnerable and that speaking the truth might be difficult in terms of their employment situation."

Those powers, he said, could provide for anonymity for those witnesses who "want to tell the story of what's going on inside the system", or any others who feel speaking out may be personally detrimental.

And Dr Clark said the government would respond accordingly to the outcome of the inquiry, including a potential boost to funding.

The six-person inquiry team will be led by the former Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson and will hear public submissions around the country.

The other members of the inquiry panel are Dr Barbara Disley, Sir Mason Durie, Dean Rangihuna, Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath and Josiah Tualamali'i.

The purpose of the inquiry:

  • Hear the voices of the community, people with lived experience of mental health and addiction problems, people affected by suicide, and people involved in preventing and responding to mental health and addiction problems, on New Zealand's current approach to mental health and addiction, and what needs to change
  • Report on how New Zealand is preventing mental health and addiction problems and responding to the needs of people with those problems
  • Recommend specific changes to improve New Zealand's approach to mental health, with a particular focus on equity of access, community confidence in the mental health system and better outcomes, particularly for Māori and other groups with disproportionally poorer outcomes.

To do this the inquiry will:

  • Identify unmet needs in mental health and addiction.
  • Identify those groups of people (including those not currently accessing services) for whom there is the greatest opportunity to prevent, or respond more effectively to, mental health and addiction problems.
  • Recommend specific changes to create an integrated approach to promoting mental well-being, preventing mental health and addiction problems, and identifying and responding to the needs of people experiencing mental health and addiction problems.
  • Specify which entities should progress the inquiry's recommendations, including relevant ministries and a re-established Mental Health Commission.

The inquiry will help inform future decisions including:

  • Roles and responsibilities of agencies in the health sector, including a re-established Mental Health Commission.
  • Improved coordination between the health system and other systems such as education, welfare, housing, justice, disability support, accident compensation and emergency response.
  • The design and delivery of services (eg, kaupapa Māori approaches to mental health) and effective engagement with all relevant stakeholders including mental health service providers, and consumers and their communities and whānau.
  • Governance, leadership and accountability levers to ensure access to an appropriate standard of mental health services across the country.
  • Fiscal approaches, models and funding arrangements.
  • Data collection, programme evaluation and information flows.
  • The suite of relevant regulatory frameworks, including the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 and the Substance Abuse (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 2017.
  • Workforce planning, training, support and management.