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Inquiry to improve mental health services

The Government has taken a major step towards improving mental health and addiction services with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing details of a ministerial inquiry.

The Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction will be chaired by former Health and Disability Commissioner, Professor Ron Paterson, and will report back to the Government by the end of October. This announcement delivers on another of the Government’s 100 Day Plan commitments.

“Mental health and addiction are issues for all New Zealanders,” says Jacinda Ardern. “Most of us will know a friend or whānau member that has faced a mental health challenge in their lives. Plenty have reached out and received the support required, but too many still have unhappy stories to tell.

“It’s worth noting we have added addiction services to this review based on feedback during consultation. Mental health and addiction are often interlinked – they need to be considered alongside one another.

“There are a lot of committed and highly skilled people working in mental health but it’s clear not everyone is getting the help they need. That has to change. We have to do better.

“We know that services are stretched. Demand has grown rapidly in recent years. In 2016/17 more than 170,000 people used mental health and addiction services – that’s up by 71 per cent on a decade earlier.

“We want to hear from service users, the wider community and the mental health sector about their experience and expectations. Improving our mental health is something we can all play a part in.

“The terms of reference for the Inquiry are deliberately broad. It will have a particular focus on equity of access to quality services and better outcomes, especially for Māori and other groups that we know have the poorest outcomes.

“I want the Inquiry to report back with a clear assessment of the current strengths and weaknesses of our community response to mental health, and of the response of the broader mental health system. We need fresh thinking and I look forward to recommendations on how we can make our care, support and other resources more accessible, effective and responsive to community need.

“Nothing is off the table. We all know we have a problem with mental health in this country and our suicide rate is shameful. It is well past time for us to do something about it.

“We should not pretend that this will be easy, but the Government is committed to taking action to improve the lives of people living with mental health issues,” says Prime Minister Ardern.

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