Support for mental health campaign

A campaign for a mental health facility in Central Otago is gathering support, and all that is lacking is funding.

Wanaka-based Joan Smith, who has driven the campaign for the past two and a-half years, said she was determined to see some kind of supported accommodation for people with mental illnesses set up in Central Otago, but lack of funding was holding the project back.

She said support for a facility had more than doubled since late last year.

"A meeting just before Christmas attracted 16 people; 40-45 people turned up for our meeting this week.

"I was blown away by the [number of] people that showed up. It just shows the need for this kind of facility."

Mrs Smith said her main drive for this was her daughter, who suffers from depression and had been living in Dunedin for almost four years in Wakari Hospital and in supported accommodation.

"This is her first stay in supported accommodation and she is doing so much better. Previously, they just sent her home when she was discharged but it was very overwhelming for her."

Mrs Smith said there was no supported accommodation facility in Central Otago.

Jim Crowe, of Dunedin, said he had been campaigning for 20 years for some kind of facility in Central Otago.

"Often, the only treatment available is in Dunedin and isolation of families becomes a real challenge. It can impede and slow down recovery."

Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand chief executive Judi Clements said there was research to show "there are a number of benefits for those recovering to stay within their communities and continue making connections with those around them".

Mr Crowe said: "We are talking about the needs of people and these needs are being directed by funding, but I can't understand the lack of funding for Central."

Mrs Smith said she had "frequently discussed" the issue with Pact, a support group for people with disabilities and mental illnesses, who run the facility where her daughter lives.

Pact had applied to the Central Lakes Trust for funding for supported accommodation in Central Otago last year, but was unsuccessful.

Finance and funding general manager for the Southern District Health Board, Robert Mackway-Jones, said: "There is discussion around supported accommodation facilities in Central Otago; there is no current service provision and this issue has been identified through previous planning work and also MHAAP [Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan]. It is too early to be able to confirm if the DHB will be looking to fund or purchase this service, but I expect the issue will be in the MHAAP that will be going out for consultation."

Marj's Place, Alexandra backpackers, owner and operator Marj Blyth said she had "a lot of people stay here that really need something they can call their own".



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