Govt announce $8.4mil for new six-bed mental health facility

By Moana Makapelu Lee

The Government has announced $8.4mil in funding to build a new six-unit facility for high needs and vulnerable New Zealanders. However, a Māori mental health expert says funds could have been contributed to other areas of care including Māori mental health needs.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the new purpose-built mental health facility to be constructed at the Rātonga-Rua-O-Porirua Campus will mean an improved quality of life for extremely vulnerable New Zealanders.

"This is the first service of it's kind and we're establishing it because there is a need that we haven't meet in New Zealand before."

The facility which will be built by Capital & Coast DHB will accommodate six "high needs" mental health patients and patients who had previously been in inpatient services for a significant period of time.

Health Minister David Clark says "The new facility is a national service caring for a small group of people that have a combination of an intellectual disability and or a mental health diagnosis."

Although the facility will cater to a handful with potential in the future to be extended to ten units, Ms Ardern says the facility was "desperately needed."

Maria Baker, CEO for the national Māori health centre Te Rau Matatini, supports the establishment of the new facilities however Baker says Māori mental health care is also in need.

"I think $8.4mil is a huge investment and again want to acknowledge the Minister and the Prime Minister for supporting that however $8.4mil could have also been contributed to other areas or another continuum of care particularly for Māori mental health needs."

This week Te Rau Hauora Māori are hosting a two day conference in Auckland with Māori leaders representing iwi, tumu whakarae and communities to present their concerns to the Government’s Mental Health inquiry panel.

Baker says "What is being said by Māori is that things need to change, the resources need to be unbundled from mental health services and Māori in key decision making positions but more than that Māori are saying they need the change to happen now."

Government says more mental health initiatives will follow after the conclusion of the mental health inquiry in October.