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Labour’s mental health policy

Written By: - Date published: 11:03 am, May 12th, 2017 - 13 comments
Categories: health, labour - Tags: , , ,

Labour has outlined a mental health policy:

Under Labour’s fresh approach to mental health services, we will establish a two-year pilot programme of primary mental health teams at eight sites across the country to work with GPs, PHOs, DHBs, and mental health NGOs. These sites will be selected to meet high needs populations, including Christchurch, which has seen a surge in mental health needs. The programme is expected to help nearly 40,000 people get the assistance they need for each year of the pilot. This will be an investment of $43m over two years, funded through Labour’s commitment to reversing National’s $1.7b of health cuts.

Mental health teams will be based on site with primary care providers, such as GPs, to offer free, accessible help for people with mental health issues before and after crises. Early intervention and continuing care will help people avoid significant mental health distress and assist them to live their lives fully.

Each mental health team will comprise mental health service co-ordinators, who will be doctors or other medical professionals. It will be their job to help people navigate the system and integrate the care from GPs, PHOs, NGOs, and DHBs, creating a sustained programme of care for each individual. This will mean patients will deal with the same health professionals throughout.

The programme will provide funding for:

  • Increased capacity for GPs to conduct interventions and make appropriate referrals
  • Mental health service co-ordinators to be based with primary care providers
  • NGOs to provide social assistance such as help getting a job or finding somewhere to live
  • Increased access to counselling
  • Coordinators to facilitate shared care between GPs and DHBs

A full review of the pilot will be taken after two years with a view to rolling out the programme nationwide over time.

Good stuff! Compare and contrast with National’s systematic under-funding of mental health, and their arrogant response to the issue:

Jonathan Coleman’s attack on ‘anti-government’ ActionStation is a smokescreen. And it’s nonsense

The minister of health has dismissed a report on mental health claiming the authors are ‘left-wing anti-government protesters’. ActionStation’s Marianne Elliott responds.

You know the saying: ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’?

Well, the message is that New Zealanders are deeply concerned about the state of our mental health system, and heartbroken about the family and friends we lose to suicide every year. We’re just the messengers.

The “we” in that sentence is the ActionStation community of everyday New Zealanders, hundreds of whom shared their stories with the People’s Mental Health Review, and 12,800 more who added their names to an open letter asking the government to consider the findings of that review.

So when the minister of health, Dr Jonathan Coleman, dismissed the recommendations of the People’s Mental Health Report on Tuesday because “the people behind the report” were “left-wing anti-government protesters”, that is who he was dismissing.

Attacking the messenger is a classic diversionary tactic when you don’t want to face up to the message itself. But in this case the issue is too important for mud slinging. People are dying. If deaths by suicides continue at the rate they were reported last year, four people will have died by suicide since Coleman responded to our open letter with an attack on the people behind it on Tuesday. …

Read on for plenty more. And vote these heartless Nats out in September!

Coverage of the Labour announcement:

Labour wants mental health teams within GP practices, free appointments for mental health issues
Labour would spend $43m on mental health teams
Mental health consults at the GP free under Labour, Andrew Little announces
Labour promises new mental health programme to create ‘front door’ to services

13 comments on “Labour’s mental health policy ”

  1. Michael 1

    I note that the “increase” is restricted to a pilot-study, albeit in eight sites across the country (better than the two sites that I believe I ead in an earlier announcement), thus implying that it is not a long-term measure and will cease on the study’s conclusion. Notwithstanding that any improvement in the provision of mental health treatment is welcome, I wonder whether leaving the statutory gatekeeping measures in place will really lead to better outcomes for people with mental health problems? At present, treatment providers are able to resort to the “serious danger” critreria in the legislation, answer in the negative, and decline to provide treatment. As we know, there are sometimes tragic results when treatment is denied to people who really need it but have been assessed otherwise. There seems to be no appeal mechanism either. Another unaddressed matter is that the causes of mental disorders are multifactorial. For example, the very first anecdote in the People’s Mental Health Review concerned a person whose mental disorder was aggravated by WINZ – a common circumstance. I see nothing from Labour that this factor, or others, will even be acknowledged, let alone remedied. Overall, I give Labour a C minus grade for this policy, which is a significant improvement from some of its earlier policies.

    • Sacha 1.1

      It won’t be the only thing they do to improve mental health services, just trying a different new approach in one part of the system. Not sure how well this will be communicated, of course.

      Increasing DHB budgets and creating a new Mental Health Commission seem likely under a Labour/Green govt. Less so under a Lab/NZF one I guess. But a Nat/poodle govt cannot admit they’ve dangerously underfunded health for years compared with soaring need from demographic changes and population rises – so I can’t see much geniune improvement under their stweardship.

    • Nope 1.2

      I don’t think you know what a pilot is.

  2. anderrawshark 2

    Michael, it is good that at this stage it is a pilot study. They need to find out how the service goes, measure the outcomes and tweak it (hopefully the tweaks won’t be major). I think this service will overcome the “serious danger “issue” because the services resort to that because they are chronically understaffed/underfunded.

    The evidence is very clear, early intervention, targeted evidence based treatment ensuring the best outcomes.

    If it wasn’t so outrageous, I would have laughed when Jonathan Coleman announced improvements to the 24 crisis line terming it “early intervention”. To anyone who has worked in the area, Dr Coleman displayed his complete ignorance of the area when she said this……………………………

  3. Cinny 3


    This start to mend and improve mental health services for kiwis will save lives.

    So many people delay going to the Dr until it is too late purely due to the cost of a visit. Too late for those with mental health difficulties results in suicide. It’s as cut and dry as that.

    I told someone today about this policy and they burst into tears. That’s how important changes like this are. One has to have been touched by the lack of mental health support in NZ to truly appreciate how valuable this policy is.


  4. Psych nurse 4

    This initiative does not go far enough, this helps the worried well, the big issues concern acute inpatient care. Actually what is needed is a massive increase in social housing. Acute units are clogged by now well patients who have no where to go, homeless people have realized that you can get a bed by fronting crisis teams saying the magic word Suicide and gaining admission, this is why the units at the DHB I work at, run at 125% occupancy. Overcrowding does not help people recover, does not let staff do their jobs well.
    We do not need extra beds but somewhere for people to live in the wider community.

    • Cinny 4.1

      Woahs, appreciate your the insight, I never knew how bad things were getting in that sector as a result of the housing crisis. So many suffering out there, homeless people having to leverage mental health just to have somewhere to sleep. Stretched DHB’s, overcrowding, leading to those in desperate need of mental health support suffering even more. Not a healthy work environment for the good people in that sector either.

      It’s incredible the flow on affects from the housing crisis, it’s just awful.

      • Psych nurse 4.1.1

        No it is not a healthy work environment, my role is to ensure the next shift is staffed, sometimes the A shift [night] has only one or two nurses doing a double shift, that is 16 hrs , sometimes that may be twelve doubles, that means nurses awake for 24 hrs followed by a drive home, not safe for them or others on the road ,not safe for patients, mistakes with medication become more frequent, decision making impaired but without overtime, units would be unstaffed, nurses don’t care about the money but fill the vacancies because of a duty of care. My DHB has an active recruitment policy but no takers nationally or internationally.There is a world wide shortage of Mental Health Nurses. For the idiot Coleman to constantly spout rubbish about X number of nurses having been employed since national came to power, a figure that doesn’t take population growth or an ageing population into account makes my blood boil.
        Nurses are being constantly assaulted we always have staff on long term sick leave which costs them income, you would think that work place injuries would guarantee income but no, you loose the first week of ACC from your sick leave and then only 80% of your salary.
        So no it’s not a healthy environment.

        • mickysavage

          Cheers PN and thanks for the comments. Much aroha …

        • ankerawshark

          Gosh this is so much worse than when I worked in the services…………………

          I realize the problem with demand on inpatient beds and housing. But it doesn’t need to be either or.

          There is some evidence if people with psychosis have good f/u in the community, they are less likely to need inpatient care.

    • gsays 4.2

      Cheers from me too.
      It occurs to me, any substantial change, for a sector so underfunded for so long, will take time.

      • Michael 4.2.1

        So we shouldn’t expect anything from Labour in the way of fewer people killing themselves then? Your comment reminds me of the stock response to people complaining that the last Labour government wasn’t interested in their problems: “We can’t do anything to help you now, but keep voting for us and look out for our long-term policies”. There’s only so much of this any electorate will put up with; by my calculations, the people of NZ reached the point of no return with Labour in 2005.

        • gsays

          Hi Michael,
          What I was eluding to was putting too much stock on a 2year trial.
          There has been a prolonged, systemic erosion of mental health investment.
          This will take an effort to change.

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