New mental health services to take pressure off EDs

Mental Health Minister Matt Doocey has today announced the implementation of a new mental health and addiction peer support service in hospital emergency departments.

“We know that at least between 13,000 and 14,600 people present annually to Emergency Departments (EDs) with mental health issues however, with a lack of reliable data this number is likely to be higher,” Mr Doocey says.

“This initiative is aimed at improving outcomes for those who seek crisis support for mental health issues at EDs while freeing up more time for clinical staff to deal with clinical work.

“We know EDs have become a bottleneck for a variety of issues including mental health. This work will go some way to untangling that, including for Police who in some cases also have to wait hours until a patient can be seen.

“Since I’ve become New Zealand’s first Minister for Mental Health, I have heard from many in the sector who want to see peer support specialists playing a greater role in helping to address some of the challenges faced by our mental health services.

“One of my top priorities is addressing the significant mental health workforce shortages. Peer Support Specialists play a vital role within this workforce, and it is essential we put in place specific initiatives to grow and support them.

“Peer Support Specialists in EDs will provide mental health support, connect people to community services and provide comfort to patients arriving on their own, with family or the Police,” Mr Doocey says.

In its first year, this initiative will be rolled out to four large hospitals with a further four in the second year. It’s being funded using uncommitted Health NZ funds and is estimated to cost between $300,000 and $500,000 per hospital. This initiative will build on the already strong partnerships between Health NZ clinical services and NGOs.

“A $1 million workforce fund over two years has also been set up to provide Level 4 NZ Certificate in Health and Wellbeing (Peer Support) training and specific training for working in emergency departments. If this proves to be a success, we see this initiative rolling out to all hospitals.

“We aim to expand the model next year based on the success of the trial,” Mr Doocey says.