A Canterbury District Health Board Member is claiming that key services will have to be cut if the Ministry of Health doesn't take its head out of the sand.
Government demands for wide cutbacks worth $163 million from the national health budget mean that mental health services in Canterbury could be slashed when they are already under severe strain.
The Canterbury region has seen an overwhelming spike in demand for mental health services since the February 2011 earthquake which shattered Christchurch. The number of people presenting at the emergency department with mental health related issues had doubled in the last three years, while suicide-related callouts have increased by 55 percent since 2011.
Sixty percent more children, and 40 percent more adults are in need of mental health support.
Funding for psychological services from the Ministry of Social Development was recently cut from $1.6 million to just $200,000, while trauma counselling was halved to a little over $400,000 over the last year.
CDHB Board Member Jo Kane, speaking exclusively to Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch, is furious about the government's proposal to cut funding despite clear increases in demand.
LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH JO KANE ABOVE
"It's our children in trouble," Kane said. "We've got eighty-eight schools who have bought into the Prime Minister's mental health project, and all the anxiety, the disruption, the bed-wetting, the anger is manifesting itself."
"If we have to find the money out of existing budgets, that will mean we have to cut services."
Kane said that senior management staff are sick and tired of having discussions with the Ministry of Health which don't go anywhere.
"[The government] doesn't believe we have a problem," Kane said.
"They are spending time in this combative behaviour of trying to put up figures and to show what is actually happening in Canterbury, only for Wellington to go 'Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil'."
Health minister Jonathan Coleman, also speaking to Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch, disputed any claim that there would be a cut in specific funding, but insisted that all the CDHB needs to is ask for more money.
"If they need more specific resources, let's work together to see what those are, but you know, that's my commitment," Coleman said.
CDHB CEO David Meates said yesterday that the CDHB hasn't decided what services will be cut, but he's certain they can't keep providing what they currently do if the government's goes through with it's funding proposal.
The controversy comes just days after a 5.7 magnitude aftershock rocked Christchurch, bringing down cliff-faces and prompting a surge in EQC claims. One school councillor said the latest quake "has real potential to re-trigger trauma through pupils right throughout Canterbury".