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Mental health services stretched: Labour

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/05/2017 Karen Sweeney

Ask a student if they'd prefer a few dollars more in their pockets or mental health services in schools and to Labour leader Andrew Little's mind the answer is probably a no brainer.

"In the last few months as I've got around talking to New Zealanders there's one issue that has resonated significantly everywhere that I have gone and it is this - it's about mental health," he said in a post-budget speech on Friday.

That New Zealand has one of the developed world's highest rates of teen suicide doesn't make sense, he said.

Health spokesman David Clark agrees mental health services are stretched, with money being taken from other areas to avoid shortfalls.

But the government has not given nothing to mental health in the budget.

Finance Minister Steven Joyce announced an extra $224 million over four years for mental health services including $11.6 million for supporting prisoners at risk of self-harm, $4.1 million to trial employment and mental health services and $8 million to extend the Rangatahi Suicide Prevention Fund.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said mental health was a complex social issue that's impact extends beyond health into the employment, housing and justice sectors.

Fixing it means coming up with innovative solutions to keep up with New Zealanders' evolving needs, he said.

To do that the mental health funding includes $100 million "for a new cross-government social investment fund that will target innovative new proposals to tackle mental health issues".

That's what Labour say is a plan to talk about how to fix an issue National doesn't know how to solve.

And Mr Clark is concerned that cabinet is yet to consider National's new approach to tackling mental health issues, contained in a new mental health and addiction strategy.

"Labour has agreed to an urgent review of mental health in our first 100 days and we have already promised to implement a pilot scheme of mental health teams and school based health teams for all state secondary schools," he said.

Mr Coleman said cabinet would consider the government strategy "soon".

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