NZ mental-health inquiry starts

Ron Paterson.
Ron Paterson
The government-commissioned inquiry into mental health and addiction has begun with a series of public meetings, and  its consultation document has been issued.

The independent inquiry, chaired by former health and disability commissioner Prof Ron Paterson, had its first formal session in Palmerston North on Friday.

Its newly released consultation document hints at the likely focus of the inquiry, with five key questions identified to be raised in submissions:

Building positive mental wellbeing.

• How to help people deal with mental-health challenges early.

• Preventing addiction.

• Preventing suicide.

• Easier and faster identification of mental-health and addiction issues.

Prof Paterson described the inquiry’s task as wide-ranging: the key questions suggest prevention and early intervention will be areas receiving intense scrutiny.

"We want to provide a clear direction for the future that generates hope and supports communities, whanau and family, providers and government, to take action,’’ Prof Paterson said.

"Everyone’s views are important because they will help us to understand what people around the country think is working well and what needs to improve.’’

The consultation document invited comment on relevant matters, including the role of different sectors. Risk factors such as housing, violence, unemployment, deprivation and poverty were also highlighted as areas which might affect mental health and addiction.

Submissions to the inquiry can be made by email or post, as well as in person.

There has been criticism at the short period of time the inquiry has for public submissions — which are due by June 5.

Prof Paterson has said the inquiry would need to work quickly and efficiently to meet the deadline.

"This inquiry is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for change,’’ he said in the consultation document.

The inquiry visits the south at the end of next month.

Hearings and a public meeting will be held in Invercargill on May 28; the inquiry meets  submitters in Oamaru  the following day, and on May 30 hearings and a public meeting will be held in Dunedin.

Health Minister David Clark told TVNZ’s Q+A programme yesterday  he expected the inquiry’s report, due to be delivered  on October 31, would set out rigorous plans of action for the Government.

"The purpose of making that inquiry independent is that it will bring forth hard recommendations, it will bring forth challenging recommendations . . .’’  he said.

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