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Mental health package for quake regions

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/12/2016

A short-term health package to provide psychological support service to residents in earthquake affected Kaikoura and Marlborough will be introduced while a longer-term response is considered.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says $3.76 million will include funding for six new health practitioners, including a psychologist, counsellor and mental health practitioner.

"We know that after a serious earthquake people can feel stressed and anxious for a long time after the event," he said.

The psychological recovery needs of the communities would change over the coming months and years, he said.

Canterbury District Health Board chairman Murray Cleverley says it will be a long haul for people in the region.

"Many people have tough decisions to make on their future and we know from experience this next period can prove to be just as stressful as the quakes themselves," he said.

"We are already seeing increased demand on psychological services including counselling and more specialist referrals for adults and children, and we expect this trend will continue."

The package also includes $2m to pay the balance of the new Kaikoura Health Te Ha o Te Ora centre which opened in April and has served as a community hub in the aftermath of the devastating magnitude-7.8 quake.

The government initially committed $10m to the $13.4m project, expecting the community to raise the remaining amount.

They have so far raised $1.4m.

"We have decided to gift $2m to the Kaikoura District Council to clear the balance. Given the challenges facing the people of Kaikoura, we did not want them to be worried about fundraising at this difficult time," Dr Coleman said.

The Marlborough region will also receive funding for six months of free GP visits for Seddon, Ward and eastern rural region residents and three additional health practitioners.

New guidelines have also been introduced to provide a framework for offering psychological support to communities affected by adverse events.

Dr Coleman said they would help those involved in planning, co-ordinating and delivering psychological and mental health services after an emergency.

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