Budget 2017: More funding for mental health

The Government on Budget day has recognised the crisis in mental health - pumping in some money into what has been described as the achilles heel of the health sector.

It's been welcomed by many working in the sector, even though some say it's not enough.

Every day mental health worker Andy Colwell goes to work knowing he is going to have to turn away people that need his help.

"What we're seeing is families who are really struggling, and sort of life-threatening situations which are not being seen as urgent," Mr Colwell says.

"Things are going to get worse and it's really distressing for mental health workers like myself."

He says it's a sector in crisis.

"There needs to be a significant increase in funding in mental health services, what has been offered today is nowhere near enough."

Mr Colwell says the statistics speak for themselves.

A total of $224m will be injected into the sector:

  • $100m will be focussed on early intervention
  • Small amounts will go toward getting jobs for mental health patients, supporting prisoners at risk of self-harm, and Maori suicide prevention
  • $100m of DHB funding will be ring-fenced for mental health

Prime Minister Bill English says the Government has recognised growing incidents of mental illness.

"The Government wants to be more proactive about the large number of people who are designated as having some type of mental illness particularly in the welfare system," Mr English says.

Mental Health foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson says it's a good start.

"Mental health had been neglected for quite a few years and the whole system is currently creaking under the strain of that pressure so this is really going to take us quite a few steps towards recovering from that."

Twenty-one-year-old Lucy McSweeney knows the mental health system inside out - she's suffered with depression and anxiety - and she's happy with the funding.

"We need to be the ambulance at the top of the cliff and not the bottom, so I'd like to see the $100m for new projects being put into preventative care."

Overall the health sector gets a cash injection of $3.8 billion, $1.5 billion of that is chewed up by the Terranova settlement and the rest is scattered to medicines, ambulances, disability support and DHBS.

But there are losers, anyone on an elective surgery list as the Government is making a cut.

In 2016 there was $356.2m made available for elective surgeries  - this year it's almost $10 million less.

Council of Trade Unions economist Bill Rosenberg says that's not the only money missing, he says the health sector will struggle to keep up with population growth.

"We reckon its $300m short of what's needed."

The Government may have dressed the mental health wound for now - but the rest of the sector is still limping along with minimal cash.