Thursday, April 18, 2024

Brown: “Mixed messages from Government on mental health”

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Mental health is a significant issue facing New Zealand, with Labour coming to Government promising to make radical reforms to the sector.

We were repeatedly told that New Zealand wasn’t doing enough, even after National allocated $100 million in last year’s Budget for a mental health package which would deliver 17 new initiatives designed to improve our ability to support and treat those with mental health issues.

This package has now largely been scrapped with the new Government instead putting its effort into a mental health review and preferring a wide-ranging conversation rather than action.

But action is what’s needed, and the initiatives delivered as part of National’s package would have made a real difference now and taken an evidence-based approach to adapt and trial overseas ideas to ensure we were providing the best care.

One of these scrapped initiatives was an $8 million pilot programme that would have seen mental health experts join police and paramedics responding to mental health incidents.

Police spend approximately 280 hours a day dealing with mental health cases, and while they do an incredible job, they are not mental health professionals and would have benefitted immensely from the extra support.

The pilot had universal backing from those on the frontline of mental health, including mental health expert Nigel Fairley who said earlier this year the pilot was his number one priority from our overall package.

And this was just one initiative. Others that were scrapped included $5m towards ongoing support for those who attempted suicide, $25m to expand primary and community mental health and addiction services like Youth One Stop Shops, and $10m towards distance and e-therapy trials, as technology plays an important role in tailored convenient care.

For a Government that claims it cares, this decision to cancel funding to support our police makes no sense. We cannot afford to sit around and wait for an inquiry that will tell us what we already know. Actions speak louder than words.

– Simeon Brown, MP for Pakuranga

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