Free mental health and addiction services will be made available for 1.5 million New Zealanders by the middle of next year.
The number of sites is expected to increase from 22 to over 100 after the programme received an additional $40 million from the Government, Health Minister David Clark said yesterday in a statement.
Work has continued on the programme funded by the budget in 2019, with services continuing to be delivered through phone and video conferencing despite the Alert Level 4 lockdown.
“The Government has always been committed to taking mental health seriously with Budget 2019, putting $1.9 billion aside to tackle it. The work that we did in our first Wellbeing Budget means that we have the services in place for people who need them, including those affected by Covid-19,” Mr Clark said.
“Many people across New Zealand will be feeling distress or anxiety about the future because of Covid-19. We want people to know that it’s normal to feel this way in times of uncertainty, and that there is free support available for people to talk with a professional.
“This new approach is the biggest and most positive change to the way we approach mental health in decades. We know there is huge need in our communities and we know these services will make a real difference.
“People using the services are reporting the life-changing effects of being able to see someone quickly - feeling less anxious, reconnecting with loved ones and sleeping better at night.”
Services are already in operation in nine DHB areas, with more expected. The services will be fully rolled out by the middle of next year, making support available to around 1.5 million people.
Further services will be rolled out over the following three years.
Mr Clark said it was important for the programme not to “lose momentum during the lockdown.” Training has since been adapted to allow for services to be delivered virtually from next month.
It comes after the Government, alongside the Mental Health Foundation, announced a series of initiatives over the past few weeks - including awareness campaigns, apps, e-therapy and tools - to support New Zealanders affected by coronavirus, he said.
The tools are expected to complement a wider mental health support package, including face-to-face sessions and the 1737 number.