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More work needed in mental health: Coleman

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/05/2017

<span style="font-size:13px;">The Minister of Health has announced a new government plan to deal with increasing demand in mental health, but the Green Party says an inquiry is needed.</span> © AAP The Minister of Health has announced a new government plan to deal with increasing demand in mental health, but the Green Party says an inquiry is needed. Mental health services are under increasing demand and more work is needed in the sector, the Minister of Health says.

Announcing the government's new approach to dealing with that demand, Jonathan Coleman on Thursday said new funding for mental health and addiction services would be included in this year's budget as part of a $321 million social investment package unveiled this week.

He also launched a five-year, $7.5m "quality initiative" - funded from current DHB budgets - to address issues such as variations in prescriptions, improve the process for transferring of patients between in and out services and making sure lessons were learnt from complaints.

The government would also be looking at mental health in the wider social context rather than just as a health issue and would be using data between government agencies.

"These are now topics of family dinner time debate, of lunchtime chat in the workplace, or something that might come up in conversation socially. The subject is hugely concerning for all of us," Dr Coleman said.

While the sector "currently provides high quality mental health services for New Zealanders across the continuum of care", there were "undoubtedly" challenges in meeting demand, he said.

"But the health system and wider social sector is responding."

Over the past decade, the number of people using mental mental health services had jumped from 96,000 a year, to almost 168,000, Dr Coleman said.

At the time time, the number of people getting treatment for alcohol and drug problems had doubled since 2008.

In comparison, the budget for mental health services has increased by 18 per cent since 2008, from $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion dollars.

"There's no doubt that more still needs to be done, and this government is committed to continuing this transformation journey," he said.

But the Green Party isn't convinced and says only a nationwide inquiry into the system will help.

"A full nationwide mental health inquiry is needed to identify the systemic problems, and deliver effective solutions, rather than just tinkering around the edges," Green Party health spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said.

The system had been underfunded to the tune of $1.7 billion by the government and families were being short-changed, she said.

A crowd-funded report released last month also called for an urgent review and funding boosts for the sector.

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