Labour promises $43 million for mental health specialists


Labour has promised to fund a two year trial of eight primary mental health teams across New Zealand at a cost of $43 million.

Labour leader Andrew Little made the policy announcement on Thursday morning.

"What it will mean is easier, quicker access to mental health services. It will essentially create the front door that many are searching for at the moment to get the mental health care that is needed."

"Getting our mental health services improved and accessible to those who need it at the time they need it will be a priority for me from day one as Prime Minister."

Christchurch will be one of the eight sites, and seven more will be selected based on population need and in collaboration with Primary Health Organisations, DHBs and NGOs.

Labour says the policy will be in addition to its review of the mental health system.

"One in six New Zealanders will be diagnosed with a mental health problem in their lifetime. There's been a 60 per cent increase in Kiwis accessing mental health treatment since National came to power but spending on this sector has only increased by 28 per cent," Mr Little said.

"A quarter of all suicides are people who have been in contact with mental health services in the past month."

Mr Little said that in many parts of the country Police are "one of the most common frontline mental health services in our communities, and that's not right."

Labour's announcement comes amidst growing pressure on the Government from mental health advocates, including Action Station who released a highly critical report on mental health calling for an independent review and an urgent funding increase for the sector.

Prime Minister Bill English has already ruled out a review of the mental health system, but the Government has announced a national improvement programme for mental health that will cost $7.5 million over five years and will come from DHB's existing baselines.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has also promised that there will be more funding in the Budget, released in a fortnight, for mental health as part of the Government's social investment package.