Government pumps $79 million into Canterbury mental health services

The Government has approved $79 million in additional funding for new specialist mental health facilities in Canterbury. 

It will see mental health services currently housed at The Princess Margaret Hospital relocated to the Canterbury District Health Board's Hillmorton campus. 

The new facilities will contain an Integrated Family Service Centre with a 16-bed in-patient and day patient service for children and adolescents, as well as a 13-bed and five-to-seven cot space for mothers and babies. 

The redevelopment project will be led by the Canterbury DHB, the Government said. It will be overseen by the Ministry of Health and the Hospital Redevelopment Partnership Group. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said mental health has been a priority for the Government, saying on Thursday: "Part of that is ensuring that we have quality facilities that reflect modern methods of care."

The facilities will include a separate High and Complex Unit which will have 16 adult beds for patients for a range of treatment options including long term, and intensive rehabilitation.

"It will include access to the outdoors and green spaces and will be a massive improvement on the current facilities at the ageing Princess Margaret site," the Prime Minister said. 

The Princess Margaret Hospital in Christchurch.
The Princess Margaret Hospital in Christchurch. Photo credit: Google Maps

The project's budget was increased from $57 million to $79 million when it "became clear there was a need for more space for mothers and their families, and also flexible spaces for children and adolescents", the Government said. 

Health Minister Dr David Clark said while there is still improvement for the Government to support mental health and well-being in communities, he said updating the "tired" facilities at the Princess Margaret site was overdue. 

"Relocating these family mental health services to new, purpose built buildings will make a real difference to patients and the dedicated staff that care for them."

In the Government's first Budget, $249 million was set aside for mental health, which Dr Clark said at the time was the largest amount of funding allocated in 10 years. Overall spending in health was bumped up $3.2 billion over four years. 

"One of the big things we've done so far is put an extra $200 million into existing services and DHBs as part of our budget," he said in July. "We put the biggest amount in ten years into health."

Dr Clark announced a ministerial inquiry into mental health in January last year. The report, released in December, painted a sobering image, with the Mental Health Act described as "outdated and inadequate". 

The latest announcement for Canterbury adds to the Government making it cheaper for about 600,000 people to visit their doctor - which is often where people turn first when they are looking for mental health support. 

In June last year, the Government also announced funding for the construction of new drug and alcohol detoxification facilities in Auckland.