Budget 2019: Expert welcomes money for long-awaited mental health support model

A leading medical expert has welcomed the Budget's funding boost for mental services, saying it will enable a long-awaited model for how doctors and nurses deal with patients.

On Thursday, the Government unveiled the $1.9 billion financial backing it was committing to mental health services and enacting its response to the mental health inquiry.

Within the $1.9 billion is $455.1 million over fours years for a new frontline service for mental health, $8 million over four years to improve responses for those who turn up at emergency departments for mental health support, and $200 million for DHBs to fund new and existing services.

Dr Samantha Murton, the President of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, told Newshub the new funding would enable a "stepped care model" the College had been advocating for.

"The patient who is seen by a GP or a nurse can then be handed onto a service within the primary care service they already go to," she said.

By enhancing mental health programmes within primary care services patients may already be attending will help pull down an access barrier, Dr Murton says. The patient can then stay with this mental health support worker throughout their recovery.

"They pass them onto someone else who their doctor or nurses trusts. Also it means they don't have to go somewhere else for another service, so they can do it within the service they already attend."

This quicker, more effective transition between departments or services would also be beneficial for the patient, Dr Murton said.

"It gets onto the health condition earlier. There is no delay in care or treatment. These people can be seen quite quickly and then followed up very quickly as well."

Health Minister Dr David Clark said many Kiwis would benefit from the model.

"By the rollout we expect up to 325,000 people a year will be able to access this new model of primary mental health care."

Mental health funding

  • $455.1 million over four years for a new frontline service for mental health

  • $40 million over four years for suicide prevention services

  • $20.8 million over four years to fund digital and tele health services

  • $58 million in operating funding for treating drug and alcohol addiction

  • $200 million ring-fenced in capital for DHBs to fund new and existing mental health and addiction services, which is part of a total $213.1 million from the $2.3 billion for DHBs

  • $4 million over four years for Te Ara in Northland, an initiative with police which provides meth addiction support

  • $8 million over four years to improve responses for people who turn up at hospital emergency departments needing mental health support

  • $128.3 million over four years to expand mental health and other services related to alcohol and drugs for offenders

  • $6 million to support families of homicide victims to help their mental health

  • $197 million to tackle homelessness through Housing First

The Government responded to the mental health inquiry on Wednesday, saying it would agree or consider 38 out of 40 recommendations.

Among the recommendations the Government has committed to are the expansion of talk therapies, alcohol and other drug (AOD) services and culturally-aligned therapies.

There will also be an independent commission to provide leadership and oversight of mental health and addiction.

It will not, however, introduce a suicide reduction target.

Where to find help and support:

  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737

  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat

  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666

  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757

  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)


Contact Newshub with your story tips: