1.5 million people to get free access to new mental health services

The roll out of free mental health and addiction services to 1.5 million New Zealanders is underway with 22 sites previously in operation and an additional investment of $40m to roll this out to over 100 new sites.

Despite disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, work has continued on the roll out of the Budget 2019 funded programme and services have continued to be delivered via phone and video conferencing.

“The Government has always been committed to taking mental health seriously with Budget 2019, putting $1.9B aside to tackle it. The work that we did in our first Wellbeing Budget means that we have the services in place for people who need them, including those affected by COVID-19,” Health Minister David Clark said.

“Many people across New Zealand will be feeling distress or anxiety about the future because of COVID-19. We want people to know that it’s normal to feel this way in times of uncertainty, and that there is free support available for people to talk with a professional.

“This new approach is the biggest and most positive change to the way we approach mental health in decades. We know there is huge need in our communities and we know these services will make a real difference.

“People using the services are reporting the life-changing effects of being able to see someone quickly - feeling less anxious, reconnecting with loved ones and sleeping better at night,” David Clark said.

Services are already operating in nine DHB areas, with more to come. By the middle of next year the programme will be fully rolled out, making support available to around 1.5 million people. Further services will then be rolled out over the following three years.

“During COVID-19 alert level four, these services have continued to operate by adapting the way they work and have delivered services via phone or video call,” Health Minister David Clark said.

“Rolling out such an ambitious new service requires an entirely new workforce. We’ve made sure not to lose momentum during the lockdown, and have adapted the training so that from May it can be delivered virtually.

“This programme sits alongside the other initiatives the Government has announced over the past weeks, which include online information for parents, awareness campaigns, apps, e-therapy and tools to help people maintain their mental wellbeing through this unusual time.

“These tools have been brought on-stream quickly to complement a wider package of support such as face-to-face sessions and the 1737 number,” said David Clark.