Mental health advocate's frustration as damning stocktake reveals progress of Government's $1.9 billion investment

A damning stocktake of what's been delivered - or rather not delivered - through the Government's record $1.9 billion investment in mental health found it didn't have the oversight, systems, or the workforce in place to achieve what was promised.

The pace of progress is frustrating for the likes of Kiana, who Newshub spoke to earlier this year. She was forced to sleep on a mattress on the floor of a mental health unit.

Kiana was distressed and at breaking point when she made a TikTok video, saying: "I'm sleeping in a lounge because there's no more rooms."

Three months later, Kiana's doing much better. But she is still battling the broken mental health system.

"It angers me, it frustrates me and it infuriates me that we are facing these same issues every single day," she told Newshub. 

Kiana's experience pushed the Government to audit the record $1.9 billion on mental health it promised in the 2019 Wellbeing Budget.

"We put it out there, it's not all entirely positive, the report," Finance Minister Grant Robertson said of the review on Friday. "There were shortcomings and issues that needed to be dealt with."

It found:

  • a lack of accountability with no cohesive plan
  •  just 29 percent of existing mental health units in good or very good condition
  • delays in building mental health units because business cases took too long
  • major staffing issues - they don't know how many more they've hired or trained
  • and only 1 in 7 addiction and suicide prevention initiatives on track

"There's no sugar coating it, I think the whole sector's been pretty disappointed at the Office of Suicide Prevention," says Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson. "It's difficult to point to anything they've actually done."

Health Minister Andrew Little was clearly disappointed the Ministry of Health struggled to deliver on the $1.1 billion it was given.

"Mental health infrastructure, the report highlights some shortcomings there, but I'm confident that since the report has been produced, the ministry has taken a number of initiatives."

Kiana is frustrated. 

"Why can't we make change now? Why do we have to wait two years? I don't get it."

COVID-19 not only impacted delivery of the $1.9 billion  mental health promise, but increased the need for it, with lockdowns putting people under pressure.

Throwing money at a crisis without having proper systems in place plays into the KiwiBuild-esque criticism that this Government fails to deliver.

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