The government has set out its next steps to improve New Zealand’s specialist mental health and addictions services.
Speaking in Christchurch this morning, Health Minister Andrew Little said Thursday’s budget will include a $100 million investment in mental health over four years, including:
- $27 million for community crisis services, such as residential and home crisis respite services, community crisis teams and peer-led services in the community.
- $18.7 million to improve existing specialized child and youth mental health and addictions services, enabling 1,300 more young people to enter these facilities.
- $10 million for workforce development to build the capacity and capabilities of the skilled services workforce.
* Government to expand school mental health and wellbeing program
* ‘Through the roof’ waiting lists for Canterbury teenagers needing mental health help
* Prime Minister checks Christchurch school welfare scheme
“In Budget 2022, we will roll out the service improvement plan for people with the greatest needs.
Little said the mental well-being of Kiwis was crucial for individuals, as well as New Zealand’s economic security.
The speech comes after the government confirmed a $90 million funding increase to expand a school mental health and wellbeing program for nearly 200,000 elementary and middle school-aged children.
Andrew Little said the money will be used to launch the Mana Ake school program in the Northland, Manukau Counties, Bay of Plenty, Lakes and West Coast areas, as well as continue services set up in Canterbury and Kaikōura after the earthquakes.
“We know that early intervention is one of the best ways to encourage better mental wellbeing for young New Zealanders and throughout their lives,” Little said.
It gives children the skills and support to deal with issues such as grief, loss, separation from parents and bullying. It also provides advice, guidance and workshops for parents, whānau and teachers.
The provision of mental health is expected to be a key election issue after the Covid-19 pandemic has added even more stress to families, while doctors have warned that the child and adolescent mental health system is already in crisis in due to several years of underfunding.
Early intervention meant children may not need hospital-level mental health care, which can help ease the strain on the system, Karaitiana Tickell (Ngāi Tahu), chief executive of Purapura Whetu Trust – a Christchurch-based Kaupapa Māori health and social service provider – mentioned.
Families were seriously grappling with pandemic-related distress and rising costs of living, while parental drug and alcohol use increased.
The funding stimulates better-supported providers working in the community, whose staff included psychologists, social workers, counsellors, teachers and youth workers, he said.
This resulted in better community mental health support for children and their families, and could also mean that child protection issues could be detected earlier.
Little said the ministry is already co-designing the program with each community it operates in, with the program ready later this year.
“It means that important considerations such as cultural competency are respected and that children are supported in a way that is meaningful to them,” he said.
Youth mental health is part of the co-operation agreement between Labor and the Greens.
The government is set to reveal how it will spend $6 billion in the May 19 budget, but has already revealed some initiatives, including funding to prevent school truancy and more police.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said this year’s budget will focus on climate change and healthcare reforms.