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Govt pledges 'significant' mental health funding, but rejects suicide reduction target

The Government is set to "significantly increase" access to mental health and addiction services, after a damning report showed multiple flaws in New Zealand's mental health system. However, it stopped short this afternoon of accepting all recommendations - rejecting a proposal to set a 20 per cent suicide reduction target target by 2030.

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It comes after a report pointed to multiple flaws in New Zealand’s mental health system. Source: 1 NEWS

The Government revealed today it has accepted or "agreed in principle" to 38 of the report's 40 recommendations - pledging to broaden the types of mental health services available, urgently complete a national suicide prevention strategy and create a mental health commission. 

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The Government is accepting almost all of the recommendations from a nationwide inquiry. Source: 1 NEWS

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country needs to "transform our thinking and approach to mental health and addiction".

"We all know people who have lived with mental health and addiction challenges," she said. "This touches every community and every family and we must do better."

She said the the first accepted recommendation of increasing funding to mental health and addiction services "will take significant and sustained investment".

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The Government is rejecting only two of the 40 recommendations regarding the mental health crisis. Source: 1 NEWS

"We will need to build entirely new services, train hundreds of new staff and build new facilities across Aotearoa."

Funding details for mental health will not be announced until tomorrow's Budget, where it is set out as a 'Budget priority'. 

In December, the mental health report found that New Zealand's mental health system does not respond adequately to people in serious distress, the approach to suicide is "patchy and under-resourced" and teachers and school counsellors are overwhelmed by the number of students in distress.

Of the two rejected recommendations - which include a suicide target and directing the State Services Commission to report on options for creating a 'locus of responsibility' - Health Minister David Clark said a separate agency is not needed and the Government was not prepared to sign up to a target "because every life matters".

"One death by suicide is one death too many," Dr Clark said. 

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Whena Owen looks into the state of our mental health services ahead of Budget 2019. Source: Q+A

"The Ministry of Health is in the process of finalising a draft suicide prevention strategy and is working on options for an office of suicide prevention. New Zealanders in distress deserve our support, plain and simple."

National yesterday claimed to have received details about the creation of a Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.

Today, the party's mental health spokesperson, Matt Doocey, said he welcomed the announcement of an independent commission. But he questioned if tomorrow's Budget would show if the Government was "taking these targets seriously or whether it will be another underwhelming response to an important issue for so many Kiwis". 

"National is keen to work with the Government on mental health but our aim will be focused on delivering more frontline services to support those with mental health issues."