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Child And Youth Mental Health

MEDIA RELEASE

Hon Wyatt Creech
Minister of Health 17 June 1999

Steps Forward In Child And Youth Mental Health - More Needed

Health Minister Wyatt Creech said it was encouraging to see steps forward being made in specialist child and youth mental health services, but agreed with the Mental Health Commission that more progress was needed.

"Our young people are our biggest asset for the future. The latest report on child and youth specialist mental health is a useful stake in the ground for showing progress to date and how far we have to go in providing a good service for our young people with severe mental health problems.

"When we look at how far we've come, it's clear there has been significant growth in services for young people in the last four years. The Government has put particular effort into increasing these services since 1994.

"The report shows significant improvement in the numbers of professional staff trained and funded. For instance last year the Health Funding Authority funded training for 68 mental health professionals to specialise in child and youth mental health. It intends to fund an additional 300 clinical positions by 2002.

"Funding is planned to almost double, increasing from $26 million in 1996/97 to over $50 million in 2001/2002," Mr Creech said.

Several new budget initiatives are focusing on child and youth mental health. They include:

· $2.8 million for mental health services for young people in the care of CYPFA

· an additional 10 inpatient mental health beds for children and young people in Auckland

· additional drug and alcohol services for children and young people.

"The report also tells us we have some distance to go. It's well recognised in mental health that we need more services for young Maori people and more drug and alcohol services as well as more effort to prevent our young people having mental health problems in the first place.

"That's why Government is taking a more comprehensive approach. Specialist services are only one part of that picture."

The Government is also providing extra for other initiatives to allow schools, other agencies and the community to respond to distress in young people and to provide help and support at an early stage so that more serious illness does not develop.

An example is the Strengthening Families initiative, which includes:

· an extra $41million for Family Start programmes in 13 extra cities - these programmes provide early support to families at risk, to prevent development of many mental and emotional disorders in children

· social workers in schools programmes which help with early identification and referral of children and young people with mental health needs

· National Drug Policy initiatives, such as guidelines for and review of drug education in schools

· National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy programmes

These strategies and programmes all work on the basis that a range of Government agencies and community groups need to work collaboratively to improve services and support for children and young people.

In addition, there is significant policy work being undertaken under the Strengthening Families banner, to improve the links between CYPFA and mental health services, improve non-mental health professionals' knowledge of child and youth mental health, and their skills, identify effective mental health promotion and early identification programmes and improve the provision of specialist mental health services for children and youth.

Mr Creech said the Ministry of Health and Health Funding Authority would be advising him further on the findings of the Mental Health Commission report, and what further steps can be taken to lift the level of specialist youth and child mental health services.

ENDS


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