Mental health services receive $6m boost

By D'Angelo Martin

$6 million will be made available for underfunded mental health services at 22 general practices and one kaupapa Māori provider across seven DHBs.  The Prime Minister and the Minister of Health made the announcement today as part of the government's first major investment in primary mental health for Budget 2019. 

"We put over $1 billion of investment into mental health, but $455 million was put aside so we can roll out primary mental health services throughout Aotearoa NZ," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

$6 million will go toward funding existing and currently underfunded mental health services across the country, with an added push to establish more kaupapa Māori services that better suit vulnerable Māori in need of mental health support.

Minister of Health David Clark says, "We see kaupapa Māori services become extremely important so we've ring-fenced $62 million of that specifically for kaupapa Māori services. And the ministry is working with providers to help support those services, to lead the design work for those services because we see that there's good evidence around kaupapa Māori services and it is where people go to get their support. 

"We're also signalling in the investment with the Te Kūwatawata, which is the kaupapa Māori service provided by Tai Rāwhiti where they see 1,200 patients a year. That service, as well, is one that we constantly get good feedback on and models some of the direction of travel that we would like to see."

The government is making a start on rolling out its free mental healthcare package by signing contracts that will ensure 170,000 New Zealanders continue to receive mental health support at their local medical centre. 

"What we are doing today is the beginning for transforming mental health in New Zealand so that every New Zealander can get their primary mental health care the same way that they come in for immunisation, the flu or anything else," Ardern says.

This is the first major investment in primary mental health from Budget 2019.

Minister Clark says, "We are wanting to see greater access, more choice for people and obviously that will be part of the co-design programme aspect that will be one of the things that will come out. People will want to see services available at the time they can access them."

The Ministry of Health will issue its request for proposals shortly to begin rolling out new free frontline mental health services in new areas.