Call for youth mental health service reforms

Auditor-general John Ryan has issued a stark warning saying the mental health needs of young New Zealanders are not being adequately met.

In a new report he is calling for a more youth-focused and integrated system of care.

Mr Ryan said mental health concerns were the most significant health issues facing young people in New Zealand but many could not get the support when they needed it.

"In a country that prides itself on being a good place to bring up children and young people, this is a matter we should all be concerned about."

The report reveals a high level of unmet needs for mental healthcare among youth.

The 2019 Wellbeing Budget's $1.9 billion investment in mental health and wellbeing had shown some positive outcomes, with about 3000 young people accessing new primary mental health and addiction services monthly.

However, those in need of specialist care faced longer wait times than ever.

Mr Ryan said government agencies needed to provide consistent and integrated care pathways for young people.

The report calls for the urgent development of a national mental health and addiction workforce plan to address capacity pressures and improve the targeting of services.

The report makes nine recommendations to support a coherent system of mental health services where all young people can access appropriate and consistent care when and where they need it.

Mr Ryan said he would closely monitor government agencies’ work in this area and follow up on the report's recommendations.