Controversial restructure of after-hours mental health hotline for Nelson's young to go ahead

A controversial decision to restructure an after-hours mental health service for young people in Nelson has been given the green light by Ministry officials.

The Ministry of Health carried out an urgent review into Nelson Marlborough District Health Board's planned changes, at the request of Health Minister David Clark.

Previously, children and adolescents in the Nelson region had access to a crisis phoneline which connected them to a clinician trained to work with young people. But under the DHB’s new model, the service will be absorbed into an after-hours mental health service for all ages.

The DHB says a senior child psychiatrist will also be available on-call to offer advice.

Its decision has not gone without a fight.

Zoe Palmer, 18, who has been an outpatient of Nelson’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), took a petition with 2280 signatures to Parliament last month, calling on the Government to intervene.

Local representatives from Labour, National, the Greens and NZ First also penned a joint letter to the Health Minister, urging the changes to be put on ice until the findings of a national inquiry into mental health and addition were released.

But in the review released today, Ministry of Health Mental Health Advisor Dr John Crawshaw approved the DHB’s actions and recommended it proceed while "closely monitoring service responsiveness and effectiveness".

“As part of my review I looked at the material supplied by the DHB as well as the concerns expressed by the promoters of the petition,” he told 1 NEWS. 

Mental Health, Addictions and Disability Support Services General Manager Jane Kinsey says people who use the service will not notice any change.

"Our CAMHS clinicians will have more capacity for their specialist daytime work, which is where the most demand for CAMHS lies," she says.

All changes will be in place by the end of the month.

Particularly disappointing - Matt Lawrey, Green Party Nelson Spokesperson

Green Party Nelson Spokesperson Matt Lawrey says the decision prejudges the upcoming findings of the government's mental health inquiry.

"One of the findings of the inquiry may well be that DHBs need to set up 24-hour specialist services for young people, just like CAMHS," he says.

Mr Lawrey says the fact no one involved in the review spoke to Zoe Palmer is "particularly disappointing.”

Zoe Palmer presented her petition, with 2278 signatures, to Green MP Gareth Hughes on Parliament steps today. Source: 1 NEWS