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King: Launch of The Law and Mental Health kit

Annette King

20 June, 2008
Launch of The Law and Mental Health kit

As a former Minister of Health, as well as being the current Justice Minister, I am really pleased to have been invited to launch The Law and Mental Health kit.

This kit is the latest in a series of law related education tools released by the Legal Services Agency as part of its education and information strategy. I want to acknowledge members of the Agency who are here tonight, particularly senior education and development adviser Janine McIntosh, who will explain features of the kit later this evening, and also to acknowledge the resource writer, Marcus Pawson.

When I was Minister of Health I was involved in many mental health service initiatives, including the launch of the second New Zealand Mental Health Plan. Campaigns such as the award-winning “Like Minds, Like Mine”, which aims to counter stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness, have resulted from the objectives in that plan.

This new kit focuses on laws relating to mental health and the needs of mental health service providers and users. Not only does this kit support the Legal Services Agency’s strategy for Helping People Access Justice, but it also fits with this Government’s strategy for taking a proactive approach towards helping everyone gain access to justice.

The Government’s goal for the justice sector envisages a safe and just society where all individuals are safe and secure, and are able to reach their full potential. Educational resources like this one play an essential role in achieving this goal.

As I said, this resource is part of a wider series of law-related education and training kits. The series has so far covered topics around domestic violence, immigration, accident compensation, enduring power of attorney and legal aid.

These educational resources are aimed at helping those who need to know what services and legal protections are available to them and how to access specific services that have been provided for those who need them most.

The Government has provided a number of initiatives aimed at helping those with mental health and addiction needs access services within the justice sector. For example, we are currently trialling a scheme in South Auckland and Christchurch where mental health nurses will be based at police watchhouses to help identify offenders with mental health, alcohol or other drug needs and tailor their management accordingly.

Within the criminal justice setting, improving the access of prisoners and community-based offenders to alcohol and other drug treatment can improve both their health and that of their families, as well as helping reduce the risk of re-offending.

The Ministry of Justice is continuing to work with the Ministry of Health as part of the Government’s Effective Interventions package to improve the interface between the mental health and alcohol and other drugs system and the criminal justice system to make New Zealand a safer and fairer society.

Forty-seven percent of New Zealanders will experience a mental illness and/or an addiction at some time in their lives, with an estimated one in five experiencing a mental illness or addiction in any given year. These are concerning statistics, and a lack of information about the wide range of services and legal protections available to people with mental health problems means that many people may not be accessing the specific services they need.

That’s why a resource like this kit is so critical --- to the people who are experiencing mental illness and their family and supporters, but also to the professionals who work with them.

The kit is written in plain language and is intended to provide clear information and training. It has been structured so that it can be used in a number of situations. For instance, a community law centre may use the kit to present a workshop to other community workers who work with people with mental illness, or a mental health professional may wish to use the kit to explain to a patient the law that affects them and their rights under those laws.

The kit is divided into nine separate parts – each part covering a different area that could affect those with mental illness. There are modules on more general topics such as Discrimination and Human Rights, and modules on more specific topics such as the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 and the different stages of compulsory treatment.

As well as the modules themselves the kit also contains a facilitator’s guide and supporting materials which includes a reference resource with contact lists and information and activity sheets on key issues such as Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act 1988 and the Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act 1966.

This kit an example is an example of the kind of positive and exciting initiatives that can occur when organisations such as the Legal Services Agency and the Wellington Community Law Centre have a common interest and join forces for the common good. Greater integration of services will enable people to get the assistance that is most appropriate to their needs, and that is why such partnerships are so worthwhile.

As I often used to say when I was Health Minister, we are a relatively small country with modest resources available. So the more effective we can be in networking together, the better the outcomes for those in need.

A kit like this can certainly not be put together overnight, and I want to thank everyone who has had an input in the resource.

In particular, thank you to the Wellington Community Law Centre, Kites Trust and members of the steering group who have worked closely with the Agency throughout the project providing guidance, information, feedback and encouragement.

I cannot mention all the individuals who have contributed, but thank you specially to Lisa Matthews, from the Wellington Community Law Centre; Eileen McAtee and Marge Jackson, from Kites Trust;

Alex Barnes and Bernie DeLord from the Mental Health Foundation;

Jessica Senior, from Wellink; Tina Bennett, from the Inner City Project; Cath MacAulay, from Atareira; and Samantha Tamanui, from Te Ratonga Ture, Maori Legal Services

I also want to thank all those involved in the early consultation meetings in Auckland and Wellington, and who participated in the trialling workshops for the material, including Wellington Mental Health Consumers Union, Oasis Network, Te Roopu Whakapakari Ora Trust and YouthLaw.

And, as I said earlier, special thanks to the writer Marcus Pawson for his exceptional and timely work, and, last but not least, to the Legal Services Agency for driving the project.

I am sure the uptake of this kit will be widespread; not only due to its content but also because of the collaborative way the Legal Services Agency develops these resources. These kits are not developed in isolation, as evidenced by the number of agencies I have thanked this evening and who are represented here.

Congratulations again to everyone who has played a part in developing this resource, and thank you for inviting me to join you this evening.


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