The Wellbeing Budget

Taking mental health seriously

Strengthening existing mental health and addiction services

At the same time as we develop new models of mental health and addiction treatment, we also need to do more to support and expand existing services.

We know it can be difficult to get treatment, even when the need is acute. Waiting times, particularly for alcohol and drug treatment, can be lengthy and many of our mental health facilities are ageing and in poor condition.

This is the direct legacy of years of underinvestment and, as a result, will take years to fully address.

Budget 2019 provides $44 million over four years to improve and enhance existing specialist drug addiction services, with a focus on residential care, detoxification services and ongoing support for more than 2,000 people that are currently receiving assistance. This funding will mean people get more intensive support, with better follow-up to improve the chances that treatment results in long-term behaviour change. It will also provide a much-needed boost to community providers and non-government organisations that deliver these vital services.

Most existing mental health and addiction services are delivered through DHBs, either directly or via contracts with non-government and community providers. As part of the overall four-year funding boost to DHBs of $2.9 billion, a total of $213.1 million will go into mental health and addiction treatment services.

For many services this will provide much-needed funding to cover cost pressures and demand. However, as we transform our approach to mental health, the mix of service options may change to meet changing demands. This will include scaling up some successful services, including Kaupapa Māori and Pacific services.

As an immediate measure to help people in crisis we are also investing an additional $8 million over four years in improving responses for the up to 15,000 people a year who turn up at hospital emergency departments needing mental health support.

A key part of ensuring we have quality services and sufficient capacity to meet demand is building our mental health and addiction workforce. Training mental health staff doesn't happen overnight, but Budget 2019 includes a major focus on workforce development across the health service.

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