by Greta Yeoman
Increased funding for mental health services in Budget 2019 has prompted a positive response from South Canterbury mental health supporters.
The $1.9billion in funding for mental health services, particularly frontline support for those with mild to moderate mental health needs, was a “welcome development”, Anglican Care South Canterbury social justice advocate Ruth Swale said.
“At present, the focus of mental health services is geared towards acute patients.
“In future, it is likely that early intervention will prevent many people from escalating to a critical level of mental distress.”
Mrs Swale added that the links between mental health, alcohol and drug addictions, and criminal offending had been “identified in a helpful way” in the Budget.
“I hope that, in time, this will provide valid alternatives for the large number of current prisoners with unmet mental health needs.”
Addictions, Mental Health Peer Support Services (AMPSS 101) manager Jan Andrews said increasing the availability and range of support services would benefit all those seeking support.
AMPSS 101, which provides peer support for South Canterbury residents, was about making connections between people needing help.
“[It is about] supporting each other in the journey.”
The service could see an average of 17 people a day, and some days up to 40, Ms Andrews said.
Timaru counsellor Alexia Bensemann said adding more mental health workers into schools would be a “great support”, while increasing support for 18 to 24-year-olds and providing a wider variety of choice for mental health support options would also be beneficial.
“My view being that when each individual is supported and connected, then we have a great social community that grows financially and in turn builds New Zealand into what it truly desires.”
She said offering immediate mental health support as the need arose was the best option.
“[I hope] that the community will listen and support while each individual chooses their own way.”
Labour list MP Jo Luxton said the Budget was about “tackling New Zealand’s long-term challenges”.
This included focusing on mental health services, “breaking the cycle of child poverty and domestic violence” and investing in “crucial” national infrastructure all while managing the books responsibly.
“[The] investment in mental health is a direct reflection of the crisis our country is facing, South Canterbury included.
“I receive emails and have meetings with parents concerned about their children’s mental health and the lack of services available. This investment is a major step in the right direction.”
Her National Party counterpart and Rangitata MP Andrew Falloon said although much of new spending on mental health came from funding for Housing First, which was started by National, it was a “really positive” move.
“The $455million for frontline mental health services makes up for the cuts Grant Robertson made to the $100million investment the previous government made in 2017, but begs the question why he cut it in the first place.”
However, despite his praise for Labour’s mental health funding, he criticised the Government, saying there was not a “cent in the Budget” for teachers, despite their recent striking.
“A massive $2.3billion is being spent on military equipment, but nothing for teachers. With a strong surplus this year, now was the time to make an investment to keep teachers in classrooms.”