Call to prioritise mental health in new system

On July 1, 20 DHBs around the country will be replaced with Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority. File Image.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission has called for the Government to make mental health a high priority in the new health system.

The Commission says it welcomes the transformational approach of major health system reforms which on July 1 will replace 20 DHBs around the country with Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority.

But it wants a commitment from the Government to deliver a mental health and wellbeing strategy as a priority for the new health system.

Commission chair Hayden Wano says the Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill, which passed its third reading two weeks ago, will provide the Government with the means to ensure better mental health and wellbeing outcomes for future generations.

He says the 2018 He Ara Oranga report of the Government inquiry into mental health and addiction calls for transformational change.

“Many whānau and tangata whaiora were not getting a great experience within the system.

“For that change to take place, to the level whānau want, will require sustained leadership over time – political leadership, the Minister of Health, the Ministry of Health, Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority, Te Mana Hauora Māori.

“As a commission we would want to work closely with them to ensure there’s a long-term view of what transformational change looks like, with some clear accountabilities and outcomes or results that demonstrate we’re making progress in the direction that whānau called for in He Ara Oranga.”

In its submissions to the Pae Ora Select Committee, the Commission called unsuccessfully for the inclusion of a mental health and wellbeing strategy in the final Bill.

"Improving mental health and addiction outcomes will require long-term planning and delivery. Including a mental health and wellbeing strategy in the Bill would have made it a non-negotiable feature of the future health system in Aotearoa New Zealand, ensuring future governments continue the commitment of the He Ara Oranga inquiry and Kia Manawanui Aotearoa," says Wano.

"Irrespective of [that], we call on the Minister of Health and the Ministry of Health to make a commitment to delivering such a strategy as a priority in the planning of the transformed health system in Aotearoa.

“We know how important mental health and wellbeing is to people and echo their calls for a continued focus on delivering tangible improvements."

Wano says the Commission is a strong advocate for community-based solutions.

He believes Iwi Māori Partnership Boards will play an important role in reaching the people that need mental health and addiction services.

“The system can go so far but at the end of the day, community-organised arrangements go much further in terms of reaching the people that most need it.

“We saw what was possible during Covid-19 when our communities and our Kaupapa Māori providers came together with iwi and worked closely with whānau that most needed those resources, and we would advocate for and promote a similar approach.

“Iwi Māori Partnership Boards are going to be a critical part of the new system.

“While Health New Zealand might be able to bring more consistency around access of services from a planned perspective, regionally organised services down to the Localities [services] are going to be absolutely critical.”

It will be important to enable whānau and communities to become part of the process.

“It’s really important that whānau are able to engage in what the services they most need would look like, and how they would best be overseen or monitored locally. I think that’s a role that Iwi Māori Partnership Boards could have.

“If we don’t get that part right, then we’re not going to achieve the results that we would look for. It’s absolutely critical for Iwi Māori Partnership Boards to come together to provide oversight and leadership to ensure our whānau and communities are taken care of.”

-Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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