Coleman promises more cash for mental health

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman. Photo: New Zealand Herald
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman. Photo: New Zealand Herald
This month's Budget will include more money for mental health and addiction services as Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman admits "more needs to be done".

Labour leader Andrew Little has said improving mental health services will be a priority for the party if in Government after September's election, and a recent report has highlighted problems in services.

In a speech to be delivered this morning, Mr Coleman will focus on mental health and addiction services, and launch a new programme to try to improve how patients are transferred, medications prescribed, and to ensure lessons are learnt from serious events and complaints.

Demand for secondary mental health and addiction services has increased from 2.3 per cent to 3.6 per cent.

Mr Coleman will point to investment in mental health services growing by 18 per cent to $1.4 billion in 2015/16, but admits more needs to be done.

Much of that work will happen through the Government's "social investment" approach, which aims to use data to better identify where money should be spent, and if it makes enough difference.

Prime Minister Bill English yesterday announced Budget 2017 will include a $321m social investment spending package.

And Mr Coleman today will confirm the May 25 Budget will include new funding for mental health and addiction services as part of the social investment package - although stressing most work will operate within existing baselines.

Mr Coleman will shortly take a paper to Cabinet outlining the Government's mental health addiction strategy, partly shaped by early feedback on a draft suicide prevention strategy.

The People's Mental Health Report released last month by lobby group Action Station included the stories of 500 people, with just 7 per cent reporting positive experiences with the health system.

Problems highlighted in the report include people waiting too long to access services and treatment, or being declined for treatment.

Mr Little this month told a meeting in Rotorua that addressing mental health services would be a priority for Labour.

"Everywhere I go people tell me stories of someone who's been let down by mental health services which are stretched to breaking point."


What we need is real hospital services restored so that people can get help, and correct size hospitals, not patch-up centres. The new Greymouth hospital is a sad example.