The Green Party is committed to reduce the waiting times people in mental distress have to put up with before they receive attention and get treatment.
Green Party mental health spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick made the commitment on World Mental Health Day.
“When people have a severe mental health condition they need free, quick, quality treatment. We should do everything in our power to stop people getting to crisis point, but there will always be some people who have unpredictable and challenging experiences and our healthcare system should be there for them,” said Chlöe Swarbrick.
“More than 20 percent of people who need mental health treatment are forced to wait more than three weeks for it, and that’s putting lives at risk.
“Last year, more than 10,000 New Zealanders had to wait for more for more than three weeks to get the support they need.
“With the Green Party in Government, we will push DHBs to ensure everyone with acute or severe mental health needs receives attention within three hours, and no one who needs treatment has to wait anywhere near three weeks.
“In Government with Labour, the Greens have made mental health services more accessible for thousands of young New Zealanders through the Piki programme, but we know we need to go further.
“The Greens supported the Government’s Wellbeing Budget investment of $1.9 billion for mental health but this clearly hasn’t yet made enough difference for people at the frontlines.
“Reducing waiting times may require increases to the proportion of DHB mental health funding that has been set to cover just three percent of New Zealanders since the 1990s. We’ve heard that some DHBs are already stretching this to cover around four percent of their communities, and the actual need could be much greater. Specific funding increases should be worked through in the next Government.
The Green Party would also commit to a Minister for Mental Health.
“What is clear is that mental health shouldn’t be treated as a subset of the health portfolio. Mental health is on the increase, particularly during the era of COVID-19. We must dedicate a Minister to ensuring that the mental health crisis in New Zealand is addressed.”
The Green Party’s other mental health policy priorities are:
- Expanding free counselling to everyone under 25, and working towards extending this to all adults.
- Championing recognition of mental health as a community and country-wide responsibility, instead of placing the burden on people experiencing issues.
- Funding inpatient and community mental health services at all levels.
- Improving postnatal mental health services.
- Funding innovative initiatives that indicate high recovery rates with minimal medication.
- Working through the cross-parliamentary group, to further destigmatise mental ill health, and build consensus on policy solutions.