The Initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission has released a report, He Ara Oranga – Manuka takoto, kawea ake / Upholding the Wero Laid in He Ara Oranga, signalling progress of the Government’s response to He Ara Oranga, the inquiry into mental health and addiction.

Chair of the Initial Commission, Mr Hayden Wano, says that this report provides a check-in on areas that are progressing and offers advice for Government to consider in these early days of system transformation.

“We were established to hold the government – and the system – to account for the response to He Ara Oranga on behalf of those with lived experience of mental health and addiction,” says Mr Wano.

“We acknowledge the commitment from Government to transform the system, and we appreciate that it will take time. The mental health and wellbeing system is complex and requires a brave and bold shift in culture and new ways of working together.”

Findings on four priority areas are:

Establishing the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission is being established, which sends the right signals and provides someone to guide the system. People want to see the Commission prioritise genuine partnerships with Māori, Pacific peoples and people with lived experience of mental health and addiction.

Prevent suicide

Building blocks to prevent suicide are in place, with the publication of the suicide prevention strategy, Every Life Matters, and establishment of the Suicide Prevention Office. This is taking a ground-up approach, with communities leading the way.

Repealing and replacing the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992

Repealing and replacing the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 is underway and there is hope that this can take a rights-based approach built in partnership with people. New legislation won’t be transformative by itself, and must be supported by other changes, such as expanding access and increasing choice for mental health and addiction services.

Expanding access and choice to publicly funded mental health and addiction services

Programmes for new frontline services have been launched at pace, such as nearly nationwide services via GPs, and pilot programmes with kaupapa Māori, Pacific and youth focus.

Money is flowing into mental health to support more people and there are pockets of success and innovation to expand access and increase choice for mental health and addiction services. However, funding mechanisms have not changed enough to support a partnership approach, which would see priority populations co-design services from the beginning.

“Overall, our findings are relatively consistent across all four initial priorities; progress is happening, and communities are leading change from the front. There is strong hope that we can build a wellbeing system with people and whānau at the heart, but there is still a long way to go before people on the ground can see real change,” says Mr Wano.

The report highlights areas that could be strengthened in these early days of system transformation to achieve equity for all and build strong foundations for the future, such as:

  • Grounding the system in Te Tiriti o Waitangi and equity
  • Putting people and whānau at the centre of a unified and inclusive system
  • Stronger, more visible leadership and genuine partnerships
  • A clear, long-term plan we develop together
  • A strategy that supports and develops our wellbeing workforce
  • Investment that expands access and increases choice, and prioritises Māori and those who need it the most

Mr Wano says that Aotearoa New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 has offered opportunities for Government to accelerate work to transform the mental health and wellbeing system.

“While we don’t yet know the full impact COVID-19 will have on the people of Aotearoa, it presents challenges and opportunities for the mental health and wellbeing system."

"We would like to encourage the system to pause, reflect and embrace the strengths that emerged in the last few months, such as collaboration, high trust and a shared understanding of need and outcomes. Our response to COVID-19 has shown that together, we can achieve great things. Let’s not lose this,” says Mr Wano.

You can read the report on our website.

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