Budget investment secures access to mental health services for 170,000 New Zealanders

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 and is kicking off the process to deliver front line services in new areas by the start of 2020.

The Prime Minister and Minister of Health have announced that $6 million of funding has been confirmed for existing, but currently unfunded, mental health services at 22 general practices and a kaupapa Māori provider spread across seven District Health Boards. This is the first major investment in primary mental health from Budget 2019.

And the Ministry of Health will issue its Request for Proposals shortly to begin rolling out new free front line mental health services worth a further $30 million in new areas starting early 2020. 

“For too long mental health has been neglected. We know there’s huge need out there for mental health support – that’s why we made investing in mental health such a priority in the Wellbeing Budget,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“We’re committed to taking mental health and addiction seriously. Over the next five years we’re rolling out free frontline services across the country so that anyone in distress can easily access free support.

“Addressing the unmet need for mental health and addiction support is a long-term challenge, but we’re taking immediate action to build on existing services.

“It makes sense to start with those providers already offering mental health support but who have not been previously directly funded by Government for it and who did not have certainty of funding going forward.

“This announcement means these existing providers have the certainty they need to invest in their workforce and facilities. And it means the 170,000 people they serve will continue to get the help that they need when they need it,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Health Minister David Clark said today’s announcement shows clearly the Government’s approach to expanding access to mental health support for people with mild to moderate need.

“We need to make it easier for people to get help early, so that we can prevent small issues becoming major problems.

“That’s what these services are designed to do. Having a mental health worker on hand when people turn up at primary care in distress means there is support available immediately.

“We want to normalise mental health treatment and get to a place that people feel as comfortable going along to their local GP about a mental health issue as they would any other health issue.

“We’ve also received consistent feedback about the success of the kaupapa approach of Te Kuwatawata. Its emphasis on whanau and matauranga (knowledge and understanding) has helped many who haven’t found success with mainstream approaches.

“It’s these sorts of services that we need to see rolled out more widely. That’s why the Ministry of Health will soon be putting out for tender $30 million of new contracts for front line services in places that don’t currently have them.

“This will be available nationally, allowing local collaborations of health providers anywhere in New Zealand to put forward proposals for their particular region.  We want to see new and existing health providers, iwi and NGO groups put forward their proposals for innovative services to support people living with mental health and addiction issues.

“Multi-year funding will be available, supported by the $455 million over four years provided in the Wellbeing Budget for these services, which will also expand regional coverage over time.

“The Ministry wants flexibility to be built into contracts, so that where evidence shows a particular approach is working well in one place, it can be added in others.

“It will take time to build the workforce and the new services we need, but today’s announcements demonstrate we’re getting on with the job,” David Clark said.

The announcement was made during a visit to the Local Doctors Dawson practice today.