Health Minister Andrew Little has announced a new 10-year plan for mental health, and a monitoring body to keep the Government on track.
But it has been slammed by National for not featuring actual milestones.
The Kia Manawanui plan will set goals on mental health, with a focus on workforce development and specialist support, Little said.
It would take New Zealand towards a “population approach” to mental health that looked to increase not just mental health support but also the drivers of ill mental health.
An external oversight group chaired by Auckland University professor Judy McGregor will monitor the Government’s performance against the plan.
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The plan is part of the Government’s wider response to its 2018 mental health inquiry, but some of the key recommendations made in that report are still only being accepted in-principle.
The all-important mental health ringfence, which sets out how much money district health boards must spend on mental health – has not been changed. The Government says it may change that ringfence as part of its overhaul of DHBs.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson, who has been sharply critical of the Government on mental health, said it was good to finally see the Government set out how it would respond to the 2018 mental health inquiry.
“This is a document that gives me considerable hope,” Robinson said.
“I’m really glad to see the population approach taken. We will not fix the mental health issues of New Zealand one person at a time.”
National’s mental health spokesman Matt Doocey slammed the plan, saying it was mostly just “nice words”.
“After four years in Government, Labour has today released another strategy, set up another working group and announced another investigation,” Doocey said.
“New Zealanders were promised this Government would take action on mental health. But nothing in the Government’s announcement will help people needing mental health support today.”
Little admitted there was little in the way of numerical milestones in the plan but committed to producing those soon.
Little has faced serious pressure over the mental health system, after the Government poured $1.9 billion into the sector in 2019.
Public counselling wait times have continued to grow, particularly for young people, as has the use of seclusion in in-patient units.
Little himself has expressed serious frustration with the pace of change, and two senior mental health bosses at the Ministry of Health have departed in recent months.
Transparency has also been an issue: Stuff revealed a routine mental health monitoring report was delayed as officials battled over large reductions in the amount of data presented, and Health Director General Ashley Bloomfield ended up having to apologise to Little after giving him incorrect information on the report.
Little said on Wednesday the mental health system had been neglected under National and fixing it was a “massive task”.
“The mental wellbeing of New Zealanders will be better supported through this programme as it requires government agencies to work together to promote and protect mental wellbeing,” Little said.
“We have heard loud and clear the need to place greater focus on promotion and prevention, as well as providing specialist support for those with complex needs. This is part of the Government’s commitment to laying the foundations for a healthy future for all New Zealanders. Mental wellbeing and equitable care should be attainable for everyone.”
“Kia Manawanui sets out short, medium and long term actions to be taken across Government with a focus on key areas such as technology, workforce, and investment to make transformative change.”