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Pull mental health out of the 'too-hard basket'

17 August 2005

It's time to pull mental health out of the 'too-hard basket'

The Green Party is urging the Government to pull mental health out of the "too-hard basket".

Green Mental Health Spokesperson Sue Bradford will launch the Party's Mental Heath Policy tonight at the Auckland College of Nurses.

"Almost every week we hear a story illustrating that our mental health system is in crisis," Ms Bradford says.

"Last week, the Police took hours to find a bed for a man brandishing knives on a Wellington street because acute units throughout most of the North Island were already full. In Wellington, as in many other parts of New Zealand, DHBs are simply not meeting their responsibilities.

"The mental health system is chronically underfunded and understaffed and the Greens will seek to combat this problem if in the next government.

"It's an indictment on the Government that there are no industry-wide standards for staff-to-patient ratios in acute mental health units. This has resulted in many units simply not having enough staff, meaning there's no time for nurses to interact with patients, or any effective means for trying to rehabilitate them.

"Our mental health nurses have one of the hardest jobs in our society, and often return home battered and bruised. Yet these brave, valuable Kiwis are underpaid and overworked. The Greens are committed to trying to improve the training, wages and career opportunities in the mental health sector."

Ms Bradford says the Greens would establish staff-to-patient ratios in accordance with international good practice and ensure these standards are met.

"This may require extra mental health funding, but our first priority should be to ensure that DHBs are spending their current budgets. It's outrageous that, at the same time that tragic stories are emerging from our mental health system, our DHBs are underspending their budgets by $14 million."

The Greens' Mental Health policy also includes:

- Ensuring that people suffering from mental illness are only moved into community-based care if such care can be provided in a safe way that is conducive to patient recovery.

- Spending more on mental health front-line staff and less on the health bureaucracy.

- More support for child and adolescent health.

- Providing more support for prisoners suffering from mental illness.

Ms Bradford says it is astonishing that, at a time when the mental health system is crying out for more funding, the National Party is proposing tax cuts.

"At a time when our mental health staff are in perpetual danger of injury because acute units are understaffed and underresourced, National's proposing to launch an all-out assault on the tax base. It is clear that if National's tax policy is implemented, mental health funding will be slashed, making all Kiwis less safe and those suffering from mental illness much less likely to get better."

ENDS


An interview with Ms Bradford about the mental health policy is available
http://blog.greens.org.nz/wp-content/050817suebmentalhealth.mp3

The full policy is available at:
http://www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/policy9088.html.

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