Political Parties Share Views in Mental Health

Press Release – Awareness Trust

Consumer Participation Coordinator For Immediate Release Political Parties Share Views in Mental Health and Addictions Survey With issues effecting mental health and addictions service-users in the spotlight as we approach this year’s general …Consumer Participation Coordinator
For Immediate Release

Political Parties Share Views in Mental Health and Addictions Survey

With issues effecting mental health and addictions service-users in the spotlight as we approach this year’s general election, a consumer organization based in Canterbury has asked local candidates for their parties’ views on key concerns for the mental health and addictions communities. “Proposed policies around education, health and welfare which the parties standing for election are advocating for are all very relevant to consumers and could make an immense difference to our experiences of using services” comments Kelly Pope, a member of the network.

The organisation involved in the political survey is the Canterbury mental health and addictions consumer network, Awareness, which has been operating for over six years, bringing service users together to advocate on a systemic level to improve the delivery of services. Over the last eighteen months the work of Awareness has expanded and the organisation is now a strong voice in promoting consumer perspectives and needs. Basing the questionnaire on one written for the 2010 District Health Board election, the group included an additional question, gauging how parties will respond if population health funding leaves the Canterbury community with decreased funding for mental health and addictions support following the earthquakes which have caused a significant decline in the number of Canterbury residents.

In addition to this question, parties were asked about their stance on ring-fencing mental health funding, which ensures resources for mental health services cannot be reassigned to other health sectors, how parties feel about seclusion reduction and elimination and where parties receive their mental health information and advice from. These are all important concerns for Awareness, and the network has been advocating for consumer views on issues like seclusion in their recent work which has involved developing a seclusion reduction training video for use by DHB services.

Despite having little time before the election, candidates from two political parties, the Green Party and the Conservative Party, responded to the questionnaire. Both parties supported the maintenance of the mental health funding ring-fence with the Conservative Party’s Michael Cooke emphasising the need for accountability from the DHBs “the idea behind ring-fencing is a good one. It should be maintained and made sure that DHB’s keep to their agreements.” David Moorhouse from the Green Party expressed the party’s wish to increase resourcing for child and adolescent mental health and to meet the accommodation needs of people living with mental illness.

Though the Green Party does not have specific policy on seclusion, Christchurch Central candidate David Moorhouse states “we would support an evidence based approach to the use of seclusion”. Michael Cooke of the Conservative Party, also running in Christchurch Central, discussed the need to take into account the rights of individuals with mental illness as well as those of the wider community in considering the use of compulsory care and seclusion.
In response to concerns that mental health and addictions funding could be reduced for people in the Canterbury region due to the current population health funding model and large numbers of people leaving the area after the earthquakes, both parties believed that funding needs to be maintained to meet the mental health needs of Canterbury. Michael Cooke from the Conservative Party says

“Support workers are an integral part of recovery from the stress and trauma of disaster and an increase in their numbers… would be one way of helping the people. . There needs to be increased collaboration between NGOs working in mental health and it is pleasing to see this is already occurring.”

The Green Party has already supported the retention of pre-earthquake education funding levels and expects a similar approach would benefit the mental health sector. David Moorhouse comments
“In my personal opinion we would look to retain mental health funding at the pre earthquake levels until an equitable funding formula can be negotiated with MoH that takes into account the increased demand for mental health services. I have anecdotally heard from GPs and other primary care providers that their work in this field has soared since Feb. so there may be a requirement for an increase”

Parties who did not respond to the survey may have policy available on these, or other mental health and addictions issues. For the full survey responses from the Green Party and Conservative Party see below.
Written by Kelly Pope, member of Awareness – Canterbury Action on Mental Health
Conservative Party

1. Where does your party stand on the question of whether the ring-fence in mental health funding should be maintained?

The idea behind ring-fencing is a good one. It should be maintained and made sure that DHB’s keep to their agreements.


2. Where does your party stand on the reduction and elimination of seclusion?

I think we accept the fact that long term seclusion will always be needed for the criminally insane and short term for those who need intensive mental care to prevent them harming themselves or others. It is obviously a challenge balancing the rights of mental health patients with those of the general public. Adding to that we must also bear in mind the often difficult position professionals are put in when they have to make judgment calls on a patient’s mental health when seclusion or release from seclusion is being considered

3. As health is presently population funded and Canterbury’s population has decreased due to the earthquakes, how would your party ensure mental health and addictions services are able to meet the increased needs of the Canterbury population since the earthquakes?

Many exceptions in response to the disaster in Christchurch have been made and we would expect this needs to be extended to mental health issues as well. Support workers are an integral part of recovery from the stress and trauma of disaster and an increase in their numbers and increased contact between them and health professionals to provide valuable information to better help people would be one way of helping the people. There needs to be increased collaboration between NGOs working in mental health and it is pleasing to see this is already occurring.

4. Where does your party get mental health information and advice from, and would you like to open a discussion with us?


As a new party we would welcome discussion with you in order to gain a better understanding of the mental health picture in Christchurch and ways of meeting the needs you are familiar with.



Greens Party
1. Where does your party stand on the question of whether the ring-fence in mental health funding should be maintained?

Our policy is to “Ensure mental health funding is ring-fenced so that it is not diverted to other services.” We also will give urgent attention to services for child and adolescent mental health needs, significantly strengthen controls around the use of Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT), and increase funding for accommodation and related services for people living with, and recovering from, mental illness.
2. Where does your party stand on the reduction and elimination of seclusion?
This is not an area that we have a policy on. We would support an evidence based approach to the use of seclusion.
From my limited information on the matter I personally would not support seclusion being used as a common control and restraint technique.
3. As health is presently population funded and Canterbury’s population has decreased due to the earthquakes, how would your party ensure mental health and addictions services are able to meet the increased needs of the Canterbury population since the earthquakes?
We do not have a policy on this. However we have already publicly supported the retention of funding for schools based on funding in place at 21 Feb 2011 in view of the fact that population movements have not settled and schools are in the frontline of dealing with children traumatised by the quakes and aftershocks.
In my personal opinion we would look to retain mental health funding at the pre earthquake levels until an equitable funding formula can be negotiated with MoH that takes into account the increased demand for mental health services. I have anecdotally heard from GPs and other primary care providers that their work in this field has soared since Feb. so there may be a requirement for an increase.
4. Where does your party get mental health information and advice from, and would you like to open a discussion with us?
We have a number of members who are health professionals both in conventional and complementary medicine. All of our members can be involved in writing policy, which is usually coordinated by somebody with expertise in the field.
Our current health spokesperson is Kevin Hague MP who was the CEO of the West Coast DHB prior to entering Parliament in 2008. I do not know if he will retain the portfolio in the new caucus, although I would imagine he would be a strong contender for the role.
I invite you to write to Kevin to start the discussion – although you may wish to wait until next week in order to get a timely reply :)

Update Labour candidate Liann Dalziel

1.Where does your party stand on the question of whether the ring-fence in mental health funding should be maintained?
Labour will re-instate the ring-fence for mental health funding. It is important that we not only focus on delivering services to those most in need, but also on preventing future demand through early intervention, support for those with lower acuity illness to be able to self-manage, and a public health approach to maintaining mental wellbeing.
2. Where does your party stand on the reduction and elimination of seclusion?
Labour currently agrees with the Ministry of Health guidelines on seclusion which set out to over time, limit the use of seclusion and restraint on mental health patients. However we would be willing to discuss this issue with Awareness Canterbury and would consider reviewing these guidelines in the future.
3. As health is presently population funded and Canterbury’s population has decreased due to the earthquakes, how would your party ensure mental health and addictions services are able to meet the increased needs of the Canterbury population since the earthquakes?
Providing services for New Zealanders experiencing poor mental health and working to maintain mental wellbeing throughout the population are both of heightened significance at this time. During a period of economic instability coupled with a series of disasters, demand on mental health services inevitably increases. Globally, the incidence of depression and anxiety is increasing. Labour acknowledges the importance of mental health and will restore it as a health priority for District Health Boards. We will require District Health Boards to set appropriate targets for the restoration and enhancement of mental health services.
4. Where does your party get mental health information and advice from, and would you like to open a discussion with us?
Labour receives mental health information and advice from a diverse group of people in the sector including consumers, health professionals and interest groups. We are always open to discussing issues and would be happy to meet with Awareness Canterbury.

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