More community care in mental health, addiction plan

A Southern District Health Board committee approved a three-year mental health and addiction plan yesterday, amid apprehension of tightening funds for mental health.

The plan will go to the full board for approval this morning.

Advocating greater integration between services, and more care provided in the community, the plan attracted 116 submissions.

In one of its few specific recommendations, it recommends basing a psychiatrist in Central Otago, which prompted concern from some submitters the clinician must be well supported.

Funding and finance general manager Robert Mackway-Jones said national-level changes were afoot in mental health funding and the full impact was not yet known.

However, it had been decided DHBs had to pay for anti-psychotic drugs and primary mental health inside ring-fenced mental health funds, which contributed to a $6 million mental health shortfall this year.

There had also been an adverse change in how demographic funding for mental health was calculated.

DHB chairman Joe Butterfield asked whether the funding changes meant the Government had reduced the amount of money for mental health.

Committee member Kaye Crowther asked what the DHB's new plan meant for outside providers such as NGOs, some of whom might face reduced demand for contracted services.

Mr Mackway-Jones replied that "change is always challenging", and "not everyone is going to agree with what this [plan] translates to".

A healthy level of feedback suggested the plan had good support and there had been adequate consultation, committee chairman Malcolm Macpherson said.

It was good to see moves to increase mental health services in Central Otago, which was a long-standing issue, Dr Macpherson said.

Of submitters to the plan, 73% were satisfied, nearly 20% were neutral, and 7% were dissatisfied.



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