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Mental health and addiction services facing crisis

Mental health and addiction services facing acute crisis due to DHB cuts

Community organisations providing essential mental health and addiction services are facing an acute crisis due to planned Capital and Coast and Hutt Valley DHB cuts, says Platform chief executive Marion Blake.

Ms Blake, whose organisation represents mental health and addiction NGOs countrywide, said she understood that Capital and Coast is aiming to make over $2m in cuts to organisations’ funding and individual services across both areas are being asked to drastically slash budgets.

The District Health Boards purchase a wide range of mental health and addiction services from dozens of NGOs across Wellington and the Hutt Valley.

These include organisations providing direct support through community support workers, counsellors, family support and advocacy as well as residential care and employment advice.

“We estimate these NGOs are providing absolutely vital support for over 1,500 people every day,” said Ms Blake.

“They are already operating on a shoestring and there is no way they can make these so called ‘savings’ and continue to provide these essential services.

“The Government has insisted that it will not cut front line services but these NGOs are the front line and we are hearing every day of organisations which fear they will be forced to close.

“What we are facing is considerable numbers of people with experience of mental health and addiction who no longer have access to quality support services. They will suffer, their families will suffer and communities will suffer.”

Wellington-based Aspire Inc, formerly Wellington Mental Health Consumers Union, is facing a 10 per-cent ($55,000) cut in funding for one of its services, the Clubhouse in Newtown.

Up to 1,700 people a month use the drop-in centre for people who have experienced mental health problems.

“We are funded for 2.7 full time equivalent staff and we are losing the .7,” said general manager Karin Keith. “I don’t see how we can operate safely with a third less staffing. The cut is effectively our annual rent. We don’t know what we are going to do: we can’t provide the service from the street.”

Ms Blake said that previously the NGOs had worked to three-year contracts, but these had all been reduced to 12 months and are due to expire on June 31.

“From July 1 not a single NGO will be contracted to provide mental health and addiction services throughout the region,” she said. “These are organisations with considerable community responsibilities, staff and leases on property but they are currently unable to do any forward planning or set budgets.

“There is an urgent need for an overall plan to resolve this crisis - but at present all the DHBs are doing is picking off individual organisations telling them to make considerable cuts.

“We fully understand that many DHBs are in the red and have to make savings but none of their debt has been accrued by NGOs and you cannot make cuts to frontline services that are already pared to the bone.”

Ms Blake said that Platform had written to Capital and Coast Chief Executive Ken Whelan on February 15 and again on March 9 raising its concerns but had not received a response. The organisation has now forwarded these letters to Dr Jonathan Coleman the Associate Minister of Health with responsibility for mental health.

About Platform
Platform provides a contact point for nationwide feedback on issues that relate to mental health and addiction NGOs. It aims to give voice to matters that impact on community organisations’ ability to provide services and to promote the role of New Zealand’s health and disability community sector nationally and internationally.

Note for Editors
A study, conducted by the NZ Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations and Pricewaterhouse Coopers showed that the community and voluntary groups studied returned between $3 and $5 worth of services for every $1 they received in funding.


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