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Mental Health Suffering… Another Labour Fail

How has so much money changed so little?
The day after that 2019 luncheon briefing, Grant Robertson was at Parliament to announce an unprecedented $1.9 billion package for mental health. A further $100 million was added in Budget 2022.
Nearly half a decade later, what have we actually got for all that money?
It is now harder than ever to see a counsellor or psychologist, even privately. 
Workforce shortages continue to cripple existing services and hamper the roll out of new ones.
Acutely unwell mental health patients can find themselves in a makeshift bed in a staff room, or in a hospital ward not fit for purpose. 
Resources are so stretched that children harming or starving themselves are typically only admitted if they’ve tried to take their own life, and in several regions young people in crisis are having to wait twice as long as they did five years ago to see a specialist mental health service.
Meanwhile, research shows the mental health and wellbeing of New Zealanders has been in decline over the last decade, while the number of adults unable to get help for their mental distress or substance abuse has risen.
How can this be after so much money has been poured into mental health?
An RNZ investigation has examined this very question. The answer is in four parts:
Even an historic amount of money dedicated to mental health has not been enough to meet the challenge. Things were missed or ignored and little is known about what has actually been achieved.
The biggest single investment – $664m for “health improvement practitioners” – appears to have merit, but has come at the expense of other services.
There still aren’t anywhere near enough skilled workers to help the large number of people who need support.
There was very little targeted at young people, who are asking for help in ever increasing numbers.
This story is part one of the series: an examination of what we know about the $2b that’s gone into the problem since 2019.
Where the money went … wrong
“I remember being really excited about the $1.9bn being an awful lot of money,” says clinical psychologist Dougal Sutherland.
“In hindsight, it wasn’t near enough.”
Out of the total package, just over half ($1.1b) has been spent on the actual health system. The rest has been spread across a range of government agencies including Corrections, Housing and Urban Development, Ministry of Social Development, Courts and the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care.
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