Announcement of Mental Health Targets and Mental Health and Addiction Community Sector Innovation Fund

Kia Ora Koutou, Tēnā Koutou, Good Morning.

Thank you Mahaki Albert for the warm welcome.

Thank you, Prime Minister, and thank you everyone for coming today.

When I look around the room this morning, I see many of our hard-working mental health and addictions workforce from NGO and Community groups, from Health New Zealand and the Ministry of Health.

Talking to people about mental health and addictions I've become firmly of the view that the ideas to solve the issues we have in mental health are already in the sector but just need the opportunity to be backed. I've listened to the innovative ideas and the people behind them resulting in today's announcement of a $10 million Mental Health and Addiction Community Sector Innovation Fund.

It’s a privilege to be New Zealand’s first Minister for Mental Health – from the teenager in the 90’s who battled with his own mental health after head injuries in a car accident to the young adult who worked in mental health in London’s NHS on his O.E. to now Mental Health Minister- it’s been a hell of an emotional ride in between.

But let’s be clear just giving someone a job hasn’t changed anything. It’s the results I deliver in role that hopefully will make that difference.

Could I thank the PM for backing me when this role was proposed, and I know mental health is an important issue to him and his family.

New Zealand has done well as a country breaking down the barriers in mental health. Breaking down the stigma and discrimination. In New Zealand we’ve come a long way creating a culture where more people are openly talking about mental health.

In my view that’s happened as a result of some high-profile Kiwis here today speaking out.

Nothing has challenged New Zealand‘s macho culture more than Sir John Kirwan, who is here today, one of our best All Blacks opening up about his own emotions.

I also want to acknowledge Sir John for launching Parliament’s first cross party mental health group in 2020 I set up with Chloe Swarbrick from the Greens and Louisa Wall from Labour at the time.

We are committed to taking a bipartisan approach in Parliament to mental health.

Shaun Robinson, CE of the Mental Health Foundation, thanks for coming today, Shaun, Shaun is a strong advocate for the mental health lived experience community and quite frankly walks the talk.

Also here today is Jazz Thornton, one of New Zealand’s biggest social media influencers, who has used her online reach to connect with young people about mental health by bravely sharing her own personal story.

Mike King, who sends his apologies as he is overseas, has worked tirelessly over the years to open up the debate on how we respond to mental health as a country.

And I also want to acknowledge a young lady here today, Grace Curtis, who with two others that share the same experience of losing a father to suicide – has been a strong suicide prevention advocate.

And there’s many more around the country, both in high profile roles or everyday Kiwis who are playing their part in creating an environment where more people feel confident in asking for help.

Sadly, now though, when some Kiwis do ask for help – that timely mental health and addiction support is not there.

The mental health and addiction system is fragmented and needs to be more joined up. My vision is a mental health and addiction continuum that’s starts with mental health promotion where people can learn mental health education including vital resilience skills. And As the Mental Health Foundation tells us the ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ is an evidence-based program that people can learn today to support their own mental health.

Next, for those in distress I want people to have access to helplines to be able to talk through their issues and be listened to in real time. 1737 allows Kiwis to call a trained counsellor 24/7 and for our young people YouthLine provides a valuable lifeline to young Kiwis including text and email services - and just to acknowledge Shae Ronald CE of YouthLine here today.

And for those people with mild to moderate mental health and addiction issues that want to see someone face to face I want timely access to primary mental health services through the Access and Choice Program based in GP’s and Community services so we can intervene earlier.

Finally, for those requiring specialist mental health and addiction services, be that community services or residential facilities, I want timely access to the treatment people need to keep them well.

This continuum of mental health promotion, helplines, primary support and specialist treatment is fragmented and needs to be more joined up.

As I said I am determined to deliver results that make a difference, that is why we have set five targets so you can hold this Government and me as Mental Health Minister accountable.

We want to ensure:

  • Faster access to specialist mental health and addiction services: target of 80 percent of people accessing specialist mental health and addiction services are seen within three weeks. 
  • Faster access to primary mental health and addiction services: target of 80 percent of people accessing primary mental health and addiction services through the Access and Choice programme are seen within one week.
  • Shorter mental health and addiction-related stays in emergency departments: target of 95 percent of mental health and addiction-related emergency department presentations are admitted, discharged, or transferred from an emergency department within six hours.
  • Increased mental health and addiction workforce development: target of training 500 mental health and addiction professionals each year.
  • Strengthened focus on prevention and early intervention: target of 25 percent of mental health and addiction investment is allocated towards prevention and early intervention.

I am pleased to announce these mental health and addiction targets as I firmly believe that by setting ambitious targets, this will provide the focus needed to make progress.

We are starting our work on these targets immediately and with that, will instigate more robust monitoring and improved data collection.

I’m realistic this is not an overnight fix, but these targets will help lift the focus on mental health and addiction system performance and – more importantly – improve the mental wellbeing of many New Zealanders.

The targets also align with my four key priorities.

The first being Increasing access to mental health and addiction support. Access is important in mental health and addictions. We know that time spent on a waitlist is a risk factor and the ability to been seen in a timely manner can greatly reduce a person’s mental health from deteriorating.

In my view one of the biggest barriers to support is our increasing workforce vacancy rates. I visited an adolescent community mental health service recently that had a 50% workforce vacancy rate. It’s no surprise that people are stuck on waitlists waiting to be seen with vacancy rates like this.

That’s why my second priority is growing the workforce. The Auditor General recently called for a specific mental health workforce plan in response to wait-times and vacancy rates increasing over the last term – it beggars’ belief we haven’t had a plan over the last few years and I’m committed to delivering on this very soon.

We need to grow the pipeline of all mental health professions including the Peer Support Lived Experience workforce.

That’s why I recently announced rolling out a new Peer Support Lived Experience service in Hospital Emergency Departments and a $1M fund to train more peer support workers.

I'm excited to announce the first 5 sites have been selected for this new service being Auckland City, Counties Manukau, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch in year one and I plan to roll out this new service to further locations next year.

My third priority is strengthening the focus on prevention and early intervention. This is a role that we all have a part to play. Whether it be responding earlier in the life course such as maternal mental health in the first 1000 days, supporting our students with mental health education in schools or early diagnosis services for those with lifelong and enduring mental illness.

I’ve always said it’s about having parallel workstreams – not only a focus on treating mental illness but also at the same time a focus on promoting mental wellbeing.

Through a social investment approach, the more we can prevent and intervene earlier the less treatment we hopefully should need to provide.

And my final priority is Improving the effectiveness of mental health and addiction support.

In the financial year 2024/2025 starting 1st July Health New Zealand’s mental health and addictions ring fenced budget will be over $2.6bn for the year - that’s an increase of approximately $200M from last years $2.4bn once uplifts from Budget 2024 are budgeted for.

As Mental Health Minister I have responsibility for the mental health ring fenced funding and I will be working hard to ensure we are delivering effective support that is making a real difference in people’s lives.

I believe there is real opportunity for taking a social investment approach in driving outcomes in mental health and addictions.

I am also pleased to announce today that the first round of the government’s $10 million Mental Health and Addiction Community Sector Innovation Fund is set to open for applications later this month.

The Fund will help new and innovative mental health services to scale up the ongoing community need for access to better mental health and addiction support.

The Fund will offer an opportunity for non-governmental and community organisations to access funding. It will operate on a matched funding basis, with existing investment from community organisations matched by the government up to an agreed funding cap of $1M per year per initiative.

Successful proposals will need to demonstrate that they can address the following key priorities:

  • Increase access to timely mental health and addiction support,
  • Protect public specialist mental health and addiction services by reducing demand,
  • Develop capacity in the mental health and addiction workforce,
  • Use technology to drive productivity,
  • Deliver scalable solutions for unmet need and
  • Evidence positive social return on investment.

As I said at the start of my speech - I believe the answers to the issues we have in mental health are already in the sector but just need the opportunity to be backed.

We have the innovative ideas, and now we have a fund to support them in today’s announcement of the $10 million Mental Health and Addiction Community Sector Innovation Fund.

Can I finish by thanking you Prime Minister for making time in your busy schedule and your focus on better mental health in this country.

Thank you to everyone here today. Thank you for everything you do in supporting many Kiwis every year.

Today is just the start.

I look forward to working with you on delivering this government's commitment to making a difference in the lives of New Zealanders.

Tēnā Koutou, Thank you.