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King launches future ‘centre of excellence’

King launches future ‘centre of excellence’ for child and youth mental health

Health Minister Annette King says a critical step toward improving the mental health of young New Zealanders has been made today with the launch of a new academic centre in Auckland.

The University of Auckland's Werry Centre: for Child and Adolescent Mental Health will provide first-class training and support for the workforce, as well as promote high-quality research into child and youth mental health.

At the same time as launching the new centre today, Ms King also released the report of the Ring-fence Protection Project into the mental health spending of six District Health Boards, saying that child and adolescent mental health was highlighted in the report.

While the report shows that the six DHBs had protected the ring-fenced funding, only 95.5 percent of contracted services were delivered, and overall DHBs incurred deficits in their provider arms, she said. The most significant under-delivery was in the area of child and youth mental health services.

Ms King says the centre is a particularly important development for young New Zealanders, of whom a quarter will experience a significant mental health problem by adolescence, with the workforce currently struggling to meet their needs.

"Workforce levels are still considerably below expected Mental Health Commission Blueprint levels, especially in areas like child and youth community services teams. This centre aims to make a positive difference by fostering innovative workforce development and training opportunities, using sound research so the workforce can respond appropriately to young people's needs and provide the best advocacy possible," says Ms King.

To develop the centre further, a Chair in Child and Adolescent Mental Health will be created with support from Auckland Downtown Rotary and the Ministry of Health. "This person will support the expansion of current research activities and with the further development of teaching already underway it's hoped that in time it will become a 'centre of excellence'," says Ms King.

Child and youth mental health has been a priority area for funding, but the project has shown a significant gap between funding and delivery. Capital and Coast was the only DHB that did not show a shortfall. The shortfalls ranged from 19 percent in Canterbury to 49 percent in Counties Manukau DHB.

"I know the Ministry plans to follow-up on under-delivery in this area and will closely monitor service delivery to ensure we get the services we need. Further work will also be undertaken by the Ministry to improve understanding of why costs are greater than expected," says Ms King.

The project was established after the Mental Health Commission and Ministry raised concerns last August that some DHBs might be spending ring-fenced mental health funds in other health areas. It has reported back that the ring-fence around mental health spending has, in 2001/02, been maintained around mental health money in the six DHBs audited.

Ms King says the six DHBs selected, Capital & Coast Health, Canterbury, Auckland, Waitemata, Counties Manukau and Waikato, were chosen because together they accounted for more than 60 percent of mental health spending.

"I am relieved that the review team says it has been assured that in 2001/02 funds provided for mental health were applied to mental health services.

"While that provides a level of reassurance, identifying and tracking the ring-fenced money remains a very complicated process. The ring-fence is crucial for DHBs and they need to have a transparent system that shows they are meeting their responsibilities.

“The review also looked at DHB plans for mental health service spending in the current financial year. Two of the DHBs, Waikato and Capital & Coast, had approved plans that were within the ring-fence funding expectations. Since then Canterbury DHB has also had its plan, which is within the ring-fence funding expectations, approved. Of the other three Boards reviewed, Auckland and Counties Manukau are changing their draft District Annual Plans to meet the minimum ring-fence expectations. Waitemata is continuing to work with the Ministry through the District Annual Planning process.

"The project has shown how serious we are about this issue. It is very important that the extra money that has flowed into mental health is being spent as intended to improve mental health services," says Ms King.

Ms King says the University of Auckland's new centre should strengthen collaboration between all those in the mental health sector, Government providers, academic institutions, employees and others. "This will lead to a youth mental health workforce well able to meet the expectations of the Blueprint."

See the Ministry of Health website for the project review: http://www.moh.govt.nz

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