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Mental health is coming of age lately, after decades of playing second fiddle to other health services.
We now talk about mental health – including our own – whereas only 20 years ago we tended not to. Government has made it a recent priority, especially in the primary sector. Famous faces such as TV personality Mike King or All Blacks Sir John Kirwan and Sir Buck Shelford are fronting the case for better services and more awareness.
Southern DHB provides lots of mental health and addiction services. We also fund many other organisations to provide services. These range widely. Some people need to be admitted acutely; others benefit from long-term counselling and support in the community. Services are available for adults and youth, for Māori and non-Māori, in rural or urban settings, for very serious or less serious conditions.
Southern DHB recently began a major review of all mental health and addiction services. It will soon be finished. I haven’t seen the report yet, but I already know we have got a fair bit to do. The review will say some services are not very effective, some practices are out of date, some expenditure is misplaced, some long-term hospital-based residents might prefer the community, and that there are service gaps for Māori, young people and some rural communities.
We will, I hope, be told that there is a longish list of things we can do about all that, either straight away or over time. The Board will then need to go to work and see that these recommendations are implemented – assuming they make sense, which I suspect they will.
And that means significant change in our mental health services is likely. That is exciting, and a wee bit daunting. We will be moving quickly, because we need to keep faith with the many hundreds of people who have generously helped inform the review.
We will keep the public well informed as we go.
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