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Cook Islands Achieves Milestone in Health Services

Cook Islands Achieves Milestone in Health Services

Richmond Fellowship to lead Development

One of New Zealand’s leading providers of community-based support services has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cook Islands Government for the development of mental health and community support services.

The agreement between the Cook Islands Government and Richmond Fellowship New Zealand signals a determination by Cook Island leaders to address a number of long standing issues, and is expected to reduce the number of Cook Islands residents receiving treatment within the New Zealand public health system. Among the proposed new services are an alcohol and drug detoxification service, a clinical trial with a new-generation medication, an expansion of mental health services through some of the Cook’s outer islands, and further training and support for the country’s medical staff.

“In the past few years there’s been a real shift of opinion in the Cook Islands and a willingness to introduce new services,” says Richmond’s Chief Executive, Dr Gerry Walmisley, following the signing of the MoU in Rarotonga. “Attitudes towards mental health issues have changed and people are becoming aware of the value of the services we’ve been building up.”

“We see this as a major milestone in discharging our regional responsibilities and enabling the local services to gain maximum benefit from the resources provided by the New Zealand Ministry of Health.”

The establishment of a detoxification centre is likely to be followed by counselling and support services. The first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting has just been held and Richmond staff are now exploring funding opportunities, including the possibility of US funded study. “Providing A and D services in the Cooks will cost far less and outcomes are likely to be better because of the ability to provide follow-up and support,” says Dr Walmisley. “It will also avoid the need for residents to travel to New Zealand for treatment.”

Richmond plans to provide further training for local medical personal to improve mental health diagnosis and treatment, and a community-based project is under way to build a new health centre for Richmond Are Pa Taunaga (house of well being). A similar project is under way with the support of Rotary to fund a new vehicle. Sponsorships are being sought to fund transport to some of the outer islands, including some more than 600kms from Rarotonga. Richmond’s work in the Cook Islands is funded under a contract with the New Zealand Ministry of Health, with additional support from the Overseas Development Fund, the British High Commission and the Cook Islands Government.

Richmond Fellowship is a major provider of community health and support services throughout New Zealand. The Fellowship has developed specialist services for a range of purchasers including the Ministry of Health, Crown Public Health and Community Health Boards. Services include support programmes for people with mental, psychiatric or psychological illness, respite and emergency support, consumer based drop-in services, specialist youth services and dual diagnosis services (including intellectual disability/mental illness).

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