Mental health programme way behind on targets

Labour’s $455 million spend on frontline mental health services has resulted in the delivery of just two sessions, per counsellor, per day, National’s Mental Health & Suicide Prevention spokesperson Matt Doocey says.

Three years after an enormous spend-up, Labour’s Access and Choice Programme is languishing behind its targets and failing the Kiwis it set out to help.

Touted as a game-changing initiative that would make mental health and addiction support available to all New Zealanders, it has been revealed that counsellors are delivering just two sessions per day over an eight-hour shift.

Figures from the latest stocktake show that only 84,181 people had been seen by the end of March, compared to a target of 105,000. That means 20,000 fewer people than intended have received support.

“It beggars belief that when the Minister for Health was asked about the programme delivery, his response was 'Am I satisfied with progress? Yes, I am',” Doocey said.

“This can’t continue. Labour has critical problems delivering against its promises and targets. There are obvious flaws with the Government’s model, and the Minister refuses to acknowledge the red flags.

“The mental health waiting list continues to grow, but I am receiving concerned feedback from the sector that mental health workers in GP clinics are being redirected to perform non-mental health tasks.

“The Government needs to hit pause on this programme which clearly isn’t delivering as was intended. A bipartisan approach to delivery is the best way forward, given that all parties support the programme's intended mental health outcomes.

“We need to ensure we have the best model of affordable, effective, and readily available mental health care to respond to the growing demand caused by COVID-19. Right now, we are falling short.”