18 Feb 2016

Chch mental health cuts 'put lives at risk'

1:17 pm on 18 February 2016

Funding cuts to mental health services in Canterbury will put lives at risk, says the Public Service Association.

Liquefaction on Bower Avenue In North New Brighton/ Parklands.

Christchurch's most recent shake saw liquefaction make an unwelcome return to the city's streets Photo: RNZ/ Sally Murphy

The Ministry of Social Development has cut funding for psychological services through community groups from $1.6 million to $200,000 since last year. Funding for trauma counselling has been halved to just over $400,000.

The Canterbury District Health Board's mental health funding per person is also below the national average. Canterbury receives $222 in funding per person, while the national average is $243.

Public Service Association national secretary Erin Polaczuk said the funding cuts would put lives at risk.

Ms Polaczuk said the cuts to community funding meant more people will seek help from the DHB, which was already under pressure and facing its own budget cuts.

She asked for an urgent meeting with the DHB to discuss plans to provide adequate and sustainable mental health services for those still traumatised by the 2011 earthquake.

"We understand they were ordered before Sunday's 5.7 magnitude shake, but the timing of these revelations couldn't be worse. We're deeply concerned for Cantabrians, who deserve better than this."

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has defended the funding decision, saying it was "demand-driven".

There has been a 55 percent increase in suicide-related callouts in the Canterbury region since 2011 and a 30 percent increase in demand for counselling services in schools.

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