Mike King swipes back at Ashley Bloomfield after he says Gumboot Friday can't be an exception to Ministry of Health rules

Ashley Bloomfield says the Ministry of Health doesn't "have a problem" with mental health advocate Mike King after his continual criticism of the agency.

The Director-General of Health told The AM Show the ministry and King both share a passion for addressing mental health issues. 

"What I can say is we don't have a problem with Mike King. One of the things I would say is we and King and his team have a shared passion for addressing mental health problems for young people."

It comes after King has continually lashed out at the Ministry of Health after his charity Gumboot Friday wasn't given any funding. The Ministry says they were unable to fund his programme because he didn't apply but King has called that misleading, saying he didn't apply because the ministry told him several times there was no point. 

But on Friday Bloomfield said the door is always open for King if he wants to apply.

"We've got really deeply committed people here in the ministry who are focused on exactly the same thing. 

"The issue that has been covered in the media is about how that funding gets to the Gumboot Friday programme.  

"All this new funding goes through a process of requesting proposals, a proper assessment of every proposal - not every one of which gets funded  - and most importantly we need to thoroughly assess the evidence for efficacy and also for safety." 

The Director-General said every mental health programme has to provide this evidence and King's is no exception. 

"We need to work with the Gumboot Friday team to get that information so that our professional leads here, as they do with every other application for funding, can assure themselves that there is proper clinical governance and safety."

When questioned by fill-in host Ryan Bridge why the Ministry wasn't urgently trying to make more counsellors available to address the crisis, Bloomfield said they are. 

"We fund counselling services and District Health Boards (DHBs) fund counselling services right across the country. We also fund digital services." 

Bloomfield says Gumboot Friday is only one avenue into counselling and there are many others available to young people. 

"Those new services.. that we are funding some of those are very specific youth-focused, youth-based services and they are increasingly available right across the country."

In a response on Facebook, King accused Bloomfield of questioning the qualifications of his counsellors. 

"Today on the AM Show Dr Bloomfield questioned the qualifications/safety of GBF counsellors. He inferred that MOH were still waiting on the relevant information from me and my organisation. They already have it so I honestly don’t know what else we can do."

King said Gumboot Friday's counsellors hold all of the relevant qualifications and are police vetted. 

Earlier in July, King announced a second Gumboot Friday will be held in 2021 after the "disappointment" of raising $943,000 at the last appeal in June.

The former comedian announced he planned to host a second event on November 5 to raise more money, as the mental health service was on track to churn through the total raised in June's appeal in just three months.

King has been highly critical of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Ministry of Health in recent weeks - even returning the NZ Order of Merit medal he was awarded in 2019 for services to mental health awareness and suicide prevention, citing a lack of progress in these areas.