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Mental Health And Addiction Services To Empower New Zealanders

“A new approach to mental health and addiction will reduce bureaucracy, improve patient choice, and empower New Zealanders,” says ACT’s Deputy Leader and Health Spokesperson Brooke van Velden.

“Each year, the government spends about $2 billion on mental health and addiction services. Yet, almost nobody is satisfied with the outcomes.

“Our current mental health system is a disorderly mix of DHBs, NGOs, and primary health care providers all struggling to provide a coordinated response.

“People who seek treatment describe a difficult-to-navigate bureaucracy, post code lotteries, and a lack of choice in services and resources to suit their individual and community needs.

“Meanwhile, attitudes to mental health issues have shifted significantly. There’s less stigma and the number of people accessing mental health and addiction services has grown by 73 percent over the past 10 years.

“Around four-in-five New Zealanders will face mental health challenges throughout their lives.

“But mental health services have become a victim of the same fragmentation and inconsistency that comes with the DHB model. The issue is too important to leave in the hands of the DHBs.

“We need an approach that will solve the big problems identified in the Government’s Mental Health Inquiry:

• Inequity of access and lack of choice
• Too much confusion and bureaucracy
• People having to navigate a web of agencies
• No whole-of-government approach
• Too much burden placed on primary healthcare providers who are not always well-equipped.

“The Government has established a Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, but it does not have real power to improve choice or establish a clear, nationwide approach to tackling mental health and addiction.

“ACT would give the Commission the power to transform mental health and addiction services by taking the $2 billion per annum currently spent through the Ministry of Health and DHBs, and channelling it to providers and patients through an upgraded Commission.

“The Commission would be renamed Mental Health and Addiction New Zealand (MHANZ).

“MHANZ would not be a provider of services, but a world-class commissioning agency that assesses individual needs and contracts the best providers for a person’s therapy and care. It would put people at the heart of the system.

“MHANZ would be the one central interface for mental health and addiction funding, reducing bureaucracy and administrative burden. It would develop expertise in evaluating where the money is going and what services work based on evidence and data. It would issue clear and certain contracts to service providers while keeping a keen eye on outcomes and quality of care.

“Any provider that meets strict criteria would be able to register with MHANZ to provide treatment and care. Funding for services would be determined by and attached to the care of individuals and their needs. MHANZ would carefully monitor providers to ensure New Zealanders are receiving high quality care.

“Patients would be able to choose any registered provider for their immediate care, providing greater autonomy, or would be referred to a specific provider in cases where a person lacks the capacity to do so or requires specialised treatment.

“MHANZ’s interface would be simple, user friendly, and the only information needed for mental health and addiction services nationwide.

“The Government’s Mental Health Inquiry painted a picture of an outdated system. It has responded with more money, but increased funding will not guarantee improvements in care. More funding does not address the issues of choice, accountability, value for money, and individual and community needs.

“We can and must do better. ACT’s vision is for mental health and addiction services which empower New Zealanders.”

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