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Rural proofing government’s mental health boost

Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) congratulates Government on its commitment of $1.9 billion to mental health in its recent wellbeing budget.

The wellbeing budget included over $500 million investment in new front line mental health services by 2024, and the total of $1.9 billion was the largest single item in the budget.

Professor Jane Mills, Chairperson of RHAANZ, said the increase comes at a time when concerns over rural mental health have never been greater, with elevated levels of mental stress, anxiety and suicide risk placing greater demand on already stretched services.

“We need to remember, rural New Zealand in population terms is equivalent to New Zealand’s second largest city in numbers, with all the diversity and challenges a population that size brings.

“We will be working hard to ensure that the government’s rural proofing policy that was launched by Minister for Rural Communities Damien O’Connor at last year’s Fieldays is clearly reflected in the implementation of the wellbeing budget for mental health,” she said.

As a sector responsible for almost half this country’s income earning exports, having a mentally sound, healthy population to generate that wealth is essential for the entire country’s economic and social wellbeing.

“RHAANZ has focused strongly on rural mental health in recent years, based around our Framework to Improve Mental Health and Addiction Outcomes, which we worked with our members to complete two years ago,” she said.

The framework calls for equitable access for rural people to health and social services, and ensuring rural communities receive their fair share of health expenditure.

Professor Mills said the framework endorsed many invaluable programmes developed specifically to recognise the unique needs and realities of people who are living and working in rural NZ.

“The framework is there, ready to go - it provides a ready pathway to ensure rural communities benefit quickly from the mental health allocation, and government can deliver the funds in a cost effective, efficient and effective manner.

“RHAANZ looks forward to working with Government over the next five years to ensure its rural proofing policy supports rural communities and health professionals to be around the table at every level of implementing and allocating the wellness budget mental health funding boost”.

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