Community Scoop

2018 – bring it on!

marionblakeeditedMarion Blake
Chief Executive
Platform Trust

This has just got to be the year where the promises, ideas and pilots turn into serious action for the mental health and addiction services of New Zealand.  That’s because we just can’t keep on going around and around describing the problems and offering solutions that disappear into the vortex.  The idea that we can innovate our way out of this chaos is brave, however we’re going to need more than an app for this.

We all get it – social issues impact on health and poor health impacts on social issues. The tidy lines between social and health that used to exist, with agencies and departments all doing their bit in isolation, have become eroded. It is now common currency that complex issues don’t find solutions in one place, but we have not yet created the way to unravel the health and social service systems to reflect this.  We use phrases like the ‘social determinants of health’ but the meeting of social science and medical science doesn’t happen easily and those troublesome citizens carry on creating ‘problems’ for both.

There is no doubt that the current complexity of funding mechanisms, accountability and responsibility for addressing these issues causes even the relentlessly positive to glaze over as the community sector attempts to describe the challenges.  However, there is now a new opportunity to collectively determine what success looks with a new Government, a new Director-General of Health and a mental health and addictions inquiry.  Imagine that instead of describing problems and challenges, we could talk solutions and the models and mechanisms needed to enable them.

For example, we have talked lots about hubs.  We all have different versions in our minds when we talk about hubs, because they are not new, just not well explored. The place where people gather is so fundamental to community, and of course uniquely reflects that community.  It’s where people are comfortable enough to seek and receive help.  This does not have to be a physical space, although there are some great examples of places like Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga where dentistry, early childhood, mental health, GP, physical health programmes (Iron Maori) etc. come together in a cultural context.  Or Windsor Park, a community complex that has services for older people, young mums, mental health/addiction support, housing, a decent café etc. in a faith-based context.  And Evolve where young people from Wellington can get ham sandwiches, condoms, mental health support or just be there via Facebook.  Yes, hubs can be virtual and I think increasingly this will be the case – the extension of Manage My Health type apps that are more individualised and possibly tailored to responding to your social health needs.  Matiu’s story in our On Track document (on page 17) is my constant wake up call to this possible future.

The opportunities for the future of health and social services are really limited only by our courage and imagination.  No one person, profession or agency holds the answer.  Social innovation will be required to create the spaces where we can bring together expertise, experience and creativity to develop the structures, the systems, the workforce and the safeguards that will provide services that people want and need to achieve outcomes meaningful to them.  We hope that the mental health and addictions inquiry gives Government the mandate to lead this work by allowing us to move from endless discussion to bold and decisive action.

This blog has been contributed by a member of the ComVoices network

ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. It was established so that sector organisations would have a more powerful voice at Government level and in the community.

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