7 Sep 2020

ACT proposes new agency to oversee mental health, addiction services

11:15 am on 7 September 2020

The ACT Party wants to take mental health funding away from the Ministry of Health and DHBs and instead channel it to patients and providers through a mental health and addiction commission.

Closeup of unrecognizable African man comforting woman during group therapy session with psychologist, copy space

Providers struggle to deliver a coordinated response to those with mental health or addiction issues, ACT says. Photo: 123RF

The ACT Party released its election policy for mental health this morning.

It wants to upgrade the government's pre-existing Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, by giving it $2 billion of funding currently spent by district health boards and the Ministry of Health.

Brooke van Velden

Brooke van Velden. Photo: supplied

The party's deputy leader and health spokesperson, Brooke van Velden, said the current system is a disorderly mix of funding arrangements with providers struggling to deliver a coordinated response.

"Drug and alcohol abuse can destroy families and lives, and yet treatment is difficult to access and the choice of treatments don't work for everyone.

"We need a new approach to addiction and mental health in this country; it's clear the status quo just isn't working," she said.

Van Velden said the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission lacked real power to improve choice or establish a clear, nationwide approach to tackling mental health and addiction.

Under ACT's policy, the commission would be renamed Mental Health and Addiction New Zealand and would not be a provider of services, but rather a world-class commissioning agency that assesses individual needs and contracts the best providers for a person's therapy and care.

"Any provider that meets strict criteria would be able to register with MHANZ to provide treatment and care. Funding for services would be determined by and attached to the care of individuals and their needs.

"MHANZ would carefully monitor providers to ensure New Zealanders are receiving high quality care," van Velden said.

She said patients would be able to choose any registered provider for their immediate care, providing greater autonomy, or be referred to a specific provider when a person lacks the capacity to make the choice themselves.

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