More specialist support for mental health calls

  • Jonathan Coleman

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has today announced details of a Budget 2016 initiative for specialist support when mental health calls are made to 111 and the mental health crisis teams.

“We know that early intervention can make a huge difference for people with mental health issues and their families,” says Dr Coleman.

“We are focused on ensuring that people get the right help, from the right people, at the right time.

“In line with international trends, over the past decade we’ve seen an increase in demand for mental health and addiction services in New Zealand. Demand has increased from 2.3 per cent of the population a decade ago, to 3.5 per cent of the population in the last year – that’s an increase from around 96,000 people, up to 164,000.

“As part of the response to this, Budget 2016 included $12 million of funding over four years to increase support for people to access mental health services at an earlier stage.

“This funding is being targeted around three initiatives. The first is to establish a mental health triage system for the national telehealth service, provided by Homecare Medical.

“The 24/7 phone service includes Healthline and a range of other mental health support helplines, offering a front-door to the wider health system over the phone and online. Importantly, this also includes 111.

“This initiative will help strengthen the system for mental health response to people who reach out to police, health, social, and community services at a time of mental health crisis or distress, identifying appropriate responses, referrals and support.

“Secondly, the funding boost will support primary care and social services through a virtual mental health expert advice service. This will help them to help people address their mental health issues before they escalate into more serious concerns. This means police and DHB emergency mental health services can focus resources on urgent situations.

“Thirdly, a local mental health pathways programme will map out existing services and better direct people to help in their communities.

“This will benefit the many people who seek out local help and advice for themselves or others on mental health issues every day.

“These initiatives also align with the refreshed New Zealand Health Strategy, especially around prevention and wellbeing, and providing more integrated and accessible services.”

The Government has increased mental health and addiction services funding from $1.1 billion in 2008/09 to over $1.4 billion for 2015/16.

The three initiatives will be phased in across all DHBs with the roll out expected to be completed by the end of 2017.