The Wellbeing Budget

Taking mental health seriously

A new frontline service for mental health

This new layer of services will be rolled out nationwide over five years (recognising the need to train more qualified mental health workers and build new facilities). It will put trained mental health workers in doctors' clinics, iwi health providers and other health services so that when people seek help it is immediately available.

Therapist and client.

For example, when a GP identifies a mental health or addiction issue they can physically walk with their patient to a trained mental health worker to talk. They might provide the patient with immediate advice and support or manage their referral to specialist services. The mental health worker will have an ongoing relationship with the person in distress and help guide and support their recovery.

This cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. What works in Northland may not work in Christchurch. Some people will want to talk to health professionals, others will respond better to a trained peer-support person. We will need to design and develop local services in consultation with local communities, the sector and those with experience.

Health centres and iwi health providers won't be the only ways people can connect with primary mental health and addiction support. The Wellbeing Budget includes extra funding for digital and telehealth services ($20.8 million over four years) specifically tailored to meet mental health needs. That will mean an extra 58,000 responses per year when people seek support by texting or calling 1737 and other existing telehealth services.

Health Minister David Clark says it needs to be made easier for people to get help early, before small issues become major problems.

"We want people to know there is no wrong door to use when they need help.

"That will mean people who have previously slipped through the cracks will get the advice and services they need – particularly those with mild to moderate issues.

"By the end of the rollout we expect up to 325,000 people a year will be able to access this new model of primary mental health care – these are the people He Ara Oranga identified as the 'missing middle'," David Clark says.

Building a range of new services to meet their needs, including Kaupapa Māori services, will revolutionise our approach to mental health and addiction.

Making mental health advice available at a primary care level will also promote early intervention. Over time, that should mean more people stay well, which will reduce demand on expensive acute services. To make this transformation possible it will take sustained investment over a number of years. In 2019/20, $48.1 million will be invested in expanding primary mental health and addiction support. This will ramp as workforce and sector capacity increases to total $455.1 million over four years.

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