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Community mental health and addiction services at risk

Community mental health and addiction services at risk

Community mental health and addiction services provided by non-government organisations (NGOs) are facing financial failure as funding provided by district health boards is not covering cost increases.

Marion Blake, CEO of Platform Trust, a national network of mental health and addiction NGOs, says key community services are being “driven into the ground” due to a lack of additional funding to offset cost increases, inconsistent pricing of services across the country, and an overly bureaucratic contracting system.

“NGOs play a critical role in supporting people in the community who are experiencing mental health and addiction issues and they eliminate the much higher costs to the Crown of providing hospital care for them,” Blake says. “Yet we are being pressured to provide more services to more people with less resources as the funding provided is not keeping up with unavoidable increases in staff and operating costs.

“Fairer funding of the NGOs will unlock the way to provide much less costly support in the community for those suffering from mental health and addiction problems,” Blake says.” It is better that we intervene before people end up needing hospital care and the costs to the DHBs and taxpayers escalate.”

“In the last five years only four out of the 20 DHBs have consistently passed on the contribution to cost pressure (CCP) increase that DHBs receive from government to meet inflationary and other cost increases. Yet we live and provide services in the same communities and face the same rising costs,” Blake says.

“On top of that, DHBs often fund NGO mental health and addiction services at a lower rate than their own services – and prices paid vary dramatically across the country. This compromises our ability to meet the cost of delivering services and offer comparable pay to our staff.

“We have reached a critical point and have launched the Fair Funding campaign to seek an urgent restoration of a sustainable funding path for the mental health and addiction NGO sector.”

In 2012/13 NGOs provided care for more than 50,000 New Zealanders suffering from mental health and addiction issues and helped them to remain in their communities as they regained wellness. Support includes providing (or finding) housing, education and employment, as well as working alongside other health providers. In New Zealand around 90 percent of people with mental illness and/or addictions are cared for in the community.

“The reality is that ‘mental health and addiction’ recovery happens in the community, not in a hospital ward”, Blake says. “The government needs and wants to move care closer to the community but unfair funding is impeding our ability to be as effective as we can be and is putting our services at risk.

“If NGOs do not receive an increase in funding and these issues are not addressed, thousands of New Zealanders may no longer be able to access community support and DHBs will be required to support them through their services. This will be a backward step for New Zealand’s mental health care system.

“NGO community services hold the key to adding value to the health sector and are best placed to provide effective and innovative responses to the increasing mental health and addiction needs of New Zealanders,” Blake says.

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