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.

More information and the terms of reference can be found here(external link).

Inquiry Members’ biographical information

Chairperson: Professor Ron Paterson

Professor Paterson is a professor of law at the University of Auckland and Chair of the New Zealand Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy & Practice Advisory Board. He was Parliamentary Ombudsman (2013–2016), Health and Disability Commissioner (2000–2010) and Deputy Director-General, Safety and Regulation, Ministry of Health (1999–2000). Professor Paterson is recognised internationally for his expertise in patients’ rights, regulation of health practitioners and healthcare quality improvement. He has chaired several major health system reviews in Australia, including the Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes (2017). He chaired the Counties Manukau Maternity Care Review (2012) and is currently reviewing the Veterans’ Support Act for the Chief of the Defence Force. He was Chair of the New Zealand Banking Ombudsman Scheme and a member of the Board of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (2010–2013). Professor Paterson was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to health, in 2011.

Member: Dr Barbara Disley

Dr Disley has filled a number of leadership roles in the mental health sector since the 1990s and has an in-depth understanding of mental health and addiction services. She is a former Director of the Mental Health Foundation (1991-1996), and a former Executive Chair of the Mental Health Commission (1996-2002) and is currently Chief Executive of Emerge Aotearoa, which works in the mental health sector.

Member: Sir Mason Durie

Sir Mason has had a lifelong commitment to public health, including mental health and addiction, with a particular expertise in Māori health and culture. He has served on range of health-related committees, councils and advisory groups, including the Mental Health Foundation (1976-1980), The National Health Committee (1998-2000) and was a Families Commissioner (2003-2007). From 2007-2010 he was the Director of Te Pou, National Centre of Mental Health Research and Workforce Development. He is currently Professor of Māori Studies and Massey University.

Member: Dean Rangihuna

Dean Rangihuna works in the frontline of the mental health sector as a Forensic Māori Consumer Advisor for the Canterbury DHB. He has worked as consumer advisor since 2005. He is also active at a national level and was recently part of an expert advisory group set up by the Ministry of Health to look at the Mental Health Act and Human Rights. In November 2016 Dean was appointed to the National Training Governance Committee for Safe Practice and Effective Communication, which is the national training programme to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint in mental health facilities.

Member: Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath

Dr Tiatia-Seath has particular expertise and experience in Pasifika mental health and suicide prevention. She is a member of the Health Research Council and the Mental Health Foundation’s Suicide Bereavement Service Advisory Group and a former member of the Health Quality and Safety Commission’s Suicide Mortality Review Committee (2014-2016). She is currently acting Co-Head of the School of Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland.

Member: Josiah Tualamali’i

Josiah Tualamali’i brings a youth perspective to the Inquiry. In 2016, he received the Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award for Leadership and Inspiration and he is currently a Projects and Events Assistant at the University of Canterbury and has expertise in Youth Development.

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