New Zealand’s mental health and addiction system should be able to offer support to all those who need it.
New Zealand has deliberately focused on expanding and funding services for people with the most serious needs. This has placed intense pressure on specialist services and resulted in very few services for those with less severe needs, even when they are highly distressed. Regardless of whether people can access services, the options available to them are limited.
Access to (and funding for) mental health and addiction services needs to be significantly increased, from the 3.7% of the population who currently access specialist services to the 20% who experience mental health and addiction issues each year. An explicit decision must be made to do this, supported by funding a wider spectrum of suitable and culturally acceptable service options (particularly talk therapies, alcohol and other drug services, and culturally aligned services).
This expansion will transform current mental health and addiction services. Making it happen requires the involvement of all key players in a co-design process and implementation support for the change process itself. It will also involve workforce development, better information, commitment to a clear funding path, new rules and expectations and strong leadership.