1492497063293 - Government ‘out of touch’ with mental health crisis, says health group

Government ‘out of touch’ with mental health crisis, says health group

The mental health system is collapsing while politicians play with numbers, a health advocacy group warns.

Despite funding increasing to the sector and a rise in the number of nurses at the MidCentral District Health Board, the YesWeCare.nz health funding coalition says health official aren’t keeping up with demand.

Funding for mental health and addiction services has increased from $1.1 billion in 2008/09 to more than $1.4b for 2015/16, according to Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, but he’s been labelled “out of touch” by the group.

That has resulted in the number of nurses rising from 108 in 2011 to 144 in 2016 at MidCentral District Health Board.

READ MORE: Hospital delays mental health programme to meet budget

YesWeCare.nz campaign co-ordinator Simon Oosterman said Ministry of Health figures showed a 60 per cent increase in mental health service users nationwide since 2007/08.

A recent survey of 6000 mental health workers conducted by the group found 90 per cent felt they did not have the resources or staffing to give New Zealanders the health care they need, when they need it, Oosterman said.

“At best, Dr Coleman is out of touch.

“At worst, he’s trying to score cheap political points while diverting attention away from a mental health system breaking under National’s watch.”

Meanwhile, also since 2007/08, there had been a 20 per cent increase in mental health needs on top of what was expected, considering New Zealand’s growing and aging population.

On top of that, Oosterman said there was a 30 per cent increase in the number of attempted suicides handled by police since 2012/2013, from 14,000 to 18,000.

Not hiring enough staff to keep up with demand was no way to fix the mental health crisis, he said.

“Government funding hasn’t kept up with a growing population and its increasing mental health needs.

“The level of mental health and addiction nurses the minister is celebrating is a cut in real terms.”

Coleman said the number of registered nurses working in mental health and addictions services for MidCentral had “increased significantly”.

“It’s important people can access the appropriate mental health and addiction services that they need,.”

Coleman said mental health and addiction services funding was more than $1.4b for 2015/16.

“But there’s always more we can do and the Government continues to work on improving mental health services.

“Having a dedicated workforce is an important part of our wider plan.”

The number of registered nurses working in mental health and addictions services in the MidCentral area increased 33 per cent over the past five years, lifting from 108 in 2011 to 144 in 2016.

“Over that period, the number of registered nurses in addiction services has increased 100 per cent, community mental health [nurses have] increased 17 per cent and hospital-based mental health services [nurses] have increased 58 per cent.”

Coleman said MidCentral had received a $127 million funding increase over the past eight years and will get an extra $18m in new money this year, taking the DHB’s total funding to $579m for 2016/17.

Overall, an extra $568m is being invested into the health sector this year.

Coleman said this was the biggest single increase in seven years, taking the health budget to a record $16.1b.

National has been in Government for nine years.

YesWeCare.nz is a coalition of community groups and people working in the health sector that is calling for adequate health funding.