New Zealand Labour Party

Primary Mental Health Teams

Labour will:

Labour will make it easier for those in our community with mental health problems to get the help they need by increasing resources for frontline health workers.

The Issue

Currently, mental health services are unable to provide the care and help that Kiwis need. Since 2008, there has been a 60 per cent increase in people needing mental health services. Funding has not kept up. Services are stretched and patchy. People are falling through the cracks. A quarter of suicides are people who had been in contact with mental health services in the past month.

Local health professionals know their patients the best but currently, they don’t have the resources to help them. Mental health services are underfunded and over-stretched, acting as an ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ that is only available to people during periods of significant mental health distress. There is a huge gap in care for people when they have mild to moderate mental health needs.

Mental health will be a priority of the next Labour Government. We will review the provision of all mental health services and work out a plan to better look after those who need help. As part of this, Labour is committed to ensuring our frontline health workers are equipped to do their valuable work.

Labour's Fresh Approach

Under Labour’s fresh approach to mental health services, we will establish a two-year pilot programme of primary mental health teams at eight sites across the country to work with GPs, PHOs, DHBs, and mental health NGOs. These sites will be selected to meet high needs populations, including Christchurch, which has seen a surge in mental health needs. The programme is expected to help nearly 40,000 people get the assistance they need for each year of the pilot. This will be an investment of $43m over two years, funded through Labour’s commitment to reversing National’s $1.7b of health cuts.

Mental health teams will be based on site with primary care providers, such as GPs, to offer free, accessible help for people with mental health issues before and after crises. Early intervention and continuing care will help people avoid significant mental health distress and assist them to live their lives fully.

Each mental health team will comprise mental health service co-ordinators, who will be doctors or other medical professionals. It will be their job to help people navigate the system and integrate the care from GPs, PHOs, NGOs, and DHBs, creating a sustained programme of care for each individual. This will mean patients will deal with the same health professionals throughout.

The programme will provide funding for:

  • Increased capacity for GPs to conduct interventions and make appropriate referrals
  • Mental health service co-ordinators to be based with primary care providers
  • NGOs to provide social assistance such as help getting a job or finding somewhere to live
  • Increased access to counselling
  • Coordinators to facilitate shared care between GPs and DHBs 

A full review of the pilot will be taken after two years with a view to rolling out the programme nationwide over time.

Support this policy? Sign the petition to back it now:

Sign the petition