Initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission report shows progress

Health Minister Andrew Little welcomes the Initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission’s assessment that transformation of New Zealand’s approach to mental health and addiction is underway.

“This is an important step in the Government’s work to provide better and equitable mental health and wellbeing outcomes for all people in New Zealand after years of underfunding,” Andrew Little said.

Mā Te Rongo Ake: Through Listening and Hearing, looks at the Government’s progress on implementing recommendations made in He Ara Oranga: Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction.

If finds that after only 18-months progress is visible, particularly for the areas initially prioritised by the Government, despite the transformation of the mental health and addiction sector being significant and needing time.

“The transformation envisioned by He Ara Oranga is bold and extensive and we are making progress. We have invested heavily to enable much-needed and significant shifts to occur,” Andrew Little said.

“Mā Te Rongo Ake confirms meaningful change is underway, especially in the priority areas of establishing the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, repealing and replacing the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, expanding access and choice of primary mental health and addiction support, developing a national suicide prevention strategy, and establishing a Suicide Prevention Office.

“Despite the challenges of the global Covid-19 pandemic, progress is continuing to be made with considerable vigour to improve mental health and wellbeing in New Zealand, and we are seeing new services and activities every month.

“The Government has expanded access and choice of primary mental health and addiction supports, built community supports, boosted crisis services, developed initiatives to prevent suicide and support people bereaved by suicide, strengthened specialist alcohol and other drug services, and expanded and enhanced school based health services.

“There are new or enhanced services in every district health board area across New Zealand and thousands of people every month are now accessing services that were previously not available,” Andrew Little said.

Integrated primary mental health and addiction services accessed through GPs are now available to more than 950,000 people, with more than 9,000 sessions provided each month, and this number growing as the rollout continues.

“These services are making a difference to people’s lives. I’ve heard stories from general practice teams about how having mental health professionals embedded in their teams is enabling them to respond to people’s distress then and there, resulting in a much better outcome for the person and their whānau,” Andrew Little said.

“I want to acknowledge the dedication of the teams who are tirelessly working to support New Zealanders. Making the significant shift we envision requires all of us working together.

“The Initial Commission has also highlighted areas for improvement. This includes stakeholder frustration that progress is not faster, and a perception of insufficient engagement with priority population groups.

“The report calls for greater collaboration and concerted action going forward, guided by an overarching long-term plan.

“I recognise the high expectations for transformation. This transformation will take time, given the historic systemic issues and resource constraints of many years that need to be addressed. But I am heartened by the progress and the difference it has already made to the lives of so many New Zealanders,” Andrew Little said.

The Initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission recommended the development of a long-term action plan to clearly articulate the pathway for the transformation of New Zealand’s approach to mental health and addiction.

“We have a plan in place, Kia Kaha, Kia Māia, Kia Ora Aotearoa: the Psychosocial and Mental Wellbeing Recovery Plan (Kia Kaha), which was released by the Ministry of Health last year. Kia Kaha ensures we are on track right now, and work on developing the long-term pathway is underway,” Andrew Little said.

Link to the report: https://www.mhwc.govt.nz/the-initial-commission/progress-reporting/

Editor’s note:

Examples of the new or enhanced services in every district health board area include:

  • expanded access and choice of primary mental health and addiction supports so there are now over 160 practices providing services to an enrolled population of almost 1.2 million people.
  • new or expanded services for young people in 10 areas across the country with more to come and increased telehealth capacity by 58,000 contacts per year.
  • boosted crisis services in all 20 DHB areas
  • developed initiatives to prevent suicide and support people bereaved by suicide with over 100 people accessing support between March and December 2020
  • strengthened alcohol and other drug services including continuing Te Ara Oranga which has seen over 2350 people since it began in 2017
  • expanded and enhanced school based health services to make it available to decile five schools around the country

The Initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission was established in late 2019 to provide independent scrutiny and advise on the work to transform the mental health and wellbeing system while a permanent Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission was established.

As part of its terms of reference, it was required to report on progress of the Government’s system transformation response to He Ara Oranga within one year of establishment.

The inaugural Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission marked its first day as Crown Entity on 9 February 2021.

ENDS

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