New targets set to mental health sector as $10m fund opens

Applications for money from the government’s new mental health fund will open this month, the Mental Health Minister says.

Matt Doocey and Prime Minister Christopher Luxon are visiting Middlemore Hospital in Auckland for the announcement which also covered a set of five targets to be met in the sector.

Kiwis were facing major challenges trying to access mental health services, Luxon said.

Progress had been made in the past 20 years, but challenges included people waiting weeks or sometimes months to see a counsellor, he said.

“Supporting New Zealanders with their mental health is a priority for this government.”

That was why the government had set up the $10m fund for mental healthcare innovation.

Doocey said the target was 80 percent of people seen within three weeks.

Another one was a shorter stay in EDs for those with mental health issues. The aim was people to be admitted, discharged or transferred within six hours.

The training of mental health and addiction staff each year would be increased to 500 instead of the current 480.

“These targets will help lift the focus on mental health.”

Luxon said if the targets and the fund worked as hoped it would be “powered up”.

“Let’s give it a go because we’ve got to do something different from what we’ve been doing.”

The Mental Health and Addiction Community Sector Innovation Fund was among new health spending announced in Budget 24.

“The fund will support new and innovative initiatives that are focused on increasing access to better mental health support, a top priority for me as New Zealand’s first Mental Health Minister,” Doocey said.

The government did not have all the answers, however, schemes to help were available in the community and just needed some backing, Doocey said.

The government would need to see certain priorities be addressed for those seeking funding including:

  • Increases access to mental health and addiction support
  • Protects public specialist mental health and addiction services by reducing demand
  • Develops capacity in the mental health and addiction workforce
  • Returns positive social return on investment (with evidence)
  • Achieves positive outcomes for target population groups that have evidence of poorer mental health outcomes than other groups
  • Will be co-funded on a dollar-for-dollar matched funding basis

The fund will be open to all NGOs (non-government organisations) and community mental health and addiction providers, including iwi-based and other Kaupapa Māori providers.

Doocey expected the first contracts to be in place before the end of the year.

In a statement, Labour mental health spokesperson Ingrid Leary said he welcomed the announcement, but it was light on details of how targets would be reached.

“Workforce resource will greatly hinder delivery, particularly when Health New Zealand has a hiring freeze, and local GPs face a shortage of both funding and workforce numers.

“Promising 500 new mental health workers a year but failing to fund the 50 additional places for doctors to train at university as promised throughout the campaign period shows National doesn’t keep their word when it comes to health.”

The government has already announced $24 million over four years for Gumboot Friday to provide free mental health counselling services to young people aged between five and 25.

Today’s announcement comes soon after a report that there has been a dramatic dropoff in New Zealanders able to access specialist mental health and addiction services over the past five years, has revealed.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission’s Kua Tīmata Te Haerenga five-year monitoring report released last month showed thousands fewer people were able to access specialist help.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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