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New chair for Mental Health Commission

October 2004

New chair for Mental Health Commission

Workbridge chief executive Ruth Harrison will chair the Mental Health Commission from January next year, says Health Minister Annette King.

Ms Harrison, who replaces current chair Jan Dowland, has 27 years’ experience in management and leadership, Ms King says.

“I am sure she will carry on the excellent work of Jan Dowland, who has ably lead the Commission over the past two years. Ms Harrison comes to the Commission with a clear vision for the future and a comprehensive understanding of the needs of the sector,” she said. "She has an inclusive and collaborative management style, and both public and private sector experience in organisational change, marketing, policy development, government process, contracting and strategy.

"During her time at Workbridge, a national not for profit organisation that helps people with disabilities gain employment, she has shown that a strong voice from the sector is the way to achieve positive change. This is an excellent approach to transfer to her work with the Mental Health Commission."

Ms Harrison has a masterate in public policy from Victoria University of Wellington. She has previously worked as Director, Strategy and Community Services, at the Wellington City Council, and from 1994 to 1996 was Senior Private Secretary, Policy, in the Social Welfare Minister’s office. She is currently chair of the Disability Sector Chief Executives Group.

The Mental Health Commission was established in 1996 in response to the recommendations of the Mason Inquiry into Mental Health Services. In 1998 the Commission produced the Blueprint for Mental Health Services, a policy document that guides the implementation of the national mental health strategy. The Commission's terms of reference are to monitor and facilitate implementation of the strategy, work to reduce discrimination against people with mental illness and address mental health workforce issues.

“The Government is absolutely committed to the Commission’s work,” Ms King says. “The Commission’s life was due to end this year, but I have extended it to 2007, and expanded its role. This year we announced an extra $250 million for implementing the Blueprint, adding to the $257 million allocation announced in 2000-01. We will continue this rate of increase until it is fully implemented.”

ENDS

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