26 Apr 2023

National's proposed $20m fund for community mental health care providers

6:20 pm on 26 April 2023
Christopher Luxon

Christopher Luxon says mental health workers fear rising numbers of people will need support during tough economic times. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The National Party has announced it will pour millions of dollars into mental health if elected at the upcoming election.

Leader Christopher Luxon says the plan plan to back community mental health providers will take pressure off the overwhelmed public system.

Its Mental Health Innovation Fund would give $20 million to community providers over four years, if they could prove they were providing positive outcomes.

Leader Christopher Luxon said there was growing concern among mental health professionals that more people will be seeking support services as the cost of living crisis worsens.

"We believe fundamentally in moving money out of the bureaucracy and out of the centre and getting it out to the front line to community organisations... this is the way in which we can solve many of our big challenges," he said, speaking at the conclusion of Gumboot Friday's Due Drop Hope Challenge at Parliament today.

"It's been great to see the work of these guys. They've done an incredible job advocating, provoking and passionately caring about the issues of suicide and mental health in New Zealand."

The aim of National's fund was to increase access to mental health services, Luxon said.

"Despite announcing $1.9 billion funding in 2019, Labour has failed to deliver the improvement in mental health services and outcomes New Zealanders urgently need.

"Kiwis have made good progress breaking down the stigma around asking for help with mental health, but when people do ask for help, they often find a mental health system that is too hard to access," he said.

It would also take pressure out of the public health system, Luxon believed.

"When you think about it, there are actually a lot of people with mild and moderate mental health issues that end up getting caught up in the public sector system when that is stressed and overwhelmed and we actually need that freed up.

"National's $20m investment could deliver the equivalent of more than 130,000 additional free counselling sessions from the non-governmental organisation sector over four years," he said.

"Funding will also be available for activities beyond one-on-one counselling, such as the suicide prevention programmes run by Mates in Construction or any other mental health programme, provided they can demonstrate they are delivering outcomes."

He said it was the first part of National's wider mental health plan.

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