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Mental health review demands urgent action

20 December 2002

Mental health review demands urgent action, more dollars

Green MP Sue Bradford today welcomed the long overdue Mental Health Commission report into the numerous failings of Auckland's mental health system, but questioned both its late arrival and the resources allocated.

"I hope the fact that the DHBs have had months to moderate the review team's initial findings doesn't mean we're not seeing the full story. Action should have been taken months ago to start providing beds for patients, and to raise staff wages so that desperately needed experienced frontline nurses don't keep melting away.

"Even in its final DHB-approved form, this report is an indictment of the way the three Auckland DHBs have failed to co-operate with each other in the provision of mental health services.

"In some cases DHBs have been unable to co-operate even with their own service arms, and in all cases the DHBs have failed to treat mental health with the priority it deserves."

Ms Bradford said the $2.8 million Government had allocated to fund 20 new care packages in Auckland and the total of $10 million of new money for mental health overall is welcome, but is a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed.

"Only a few weeks ago there was no psychiatrist for children and adolescents with mental illness in the whole of South Auckland. Mental health nurses in Counties-Manukau are talking about taking industrial action over this Christmas.

"Hundreds of people with mental illness are living on the streets or in substandard accommodation around Auckland. Are we actually going to see an end to patients being held in police cells for extended periods?

"Improved coordination of services will help, as will every extra dollar spent in the right place - but these huge problems will not be resolved by the application of $12.8million, especially when some of that is going to Midland Health as well."

"I call on Dr Cullen to release just $100 million of his budget surplus in a bid to at least begin to meet the real needs of people with mental illness in Auckland, their families, and the workforce that cares for them.

"This would be a real Christmas present."


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