The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) New Zealand National Committee – Tu Te Akaaka Roa – cautiously welcomed the announcements on mental health and addiction in the Wellbeing Budget 2019.
Chair of the New Zealand National Committee, Dr Mark Lawrence, said that while he supported the government’s planned investment in mental health and addiction it was important to temper expectations in a few areas.
‘Firstly, no amount of money will instantly repair the long-standing issue of workforce shortages’, said Dr Lawrence.
‘Consumers and providers of mental health and addiction services must keep this in mind, as should those who will be monitoring the sector for visible signs of improvement.’
‘Under-resourced District Health Boards (DHBs) are also going to face real challenges with an increased demand for outpatient or inpatient services.’
‘We do anticipate pressures on health professionals easing as more consumers with mild to moderate mental health needs are helped sooner, yet this initiative should not mean individuals with severe and persistent mental illness are forgotten.’
Dr Lawrence emphasised that addiction services were another area for cautious optimism for the RANZCP.
‘We support a recovery-focused rehabilitative approach to reducing addiction in New Zealand, so we’re very pleased with this long-awaited investment.’
‘However, sufficient capacity and capability within the workforce is an absolute prerequisite to delivering improved support and care for people living with addiction disorders.’
‘RANZCP is committed to evidence-based investment,’ Dr Lawrence stated.
‘So with recent reports demonstrating the value in providing wrap-around services to Māori, we are particularly pleased to see Whānau Ora receive increased funding and hopeful that investing in whānau-centred initiatives, including kaupapa Māori mental health services, will contribute to increased Māori wellbeing.’
Dr Tanya Wright, Chair of the RANZCP’s New Zealand Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry added: ‘There is no shortage of evidence behind the government’s decision to help lift tamariki out of disadvantage and poverty, either. Children living in poverty are three times more likely to present with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.’
‘Tamariki will also benefit from addressing family and sexual violence, reduced homelessness, and employment for adults with disabilities and mental health problems,’ Dr Wright explained.
‘We are heartened that there is recognition given to the intergenerational impact of life circumstances, especially for children living in state care.’
Dr Wright commended the improved access and service enhancement for adolescents and youth.
‘However, given so much evidence around the importance of the early years, we are concerned that the mental health needs of younger children, particularly prior to school age, are those least addressed. We hope that the government’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy will have a greater focus on prevention and early intervention.’
For all expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.
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