Chris Lynch: Where has all the mental health funding gone?

Author
Chris Lynch,
Publish Date
Fri, 26 Mar 2021, 8:07AM
Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Chris Lynch: Where has all the mental health funding gone?

Author
Chris Lynch,
Publish Date
Fri, 26 Mar 2021, 8:07AM

Where is all the mental health funding going and why is there a six-month waiting list for Christchurch university students needing help? 

Director of the UC Psychology Centre Dr Neil Thompson said there’s no doubt the pandemic and associated lockdowns have led to a rise in mental health problems

The centre offers support to students and members of the public provided by trainee clinical psychologists under the supervision of qualified clinical psychologists 

Dr Thompson said there’s now a six-month waitlist and they’ve “had to close their books.” 

This is tragic news. Many students can’t wait that long for professional support. What are they supposed to do? Wait until they hit rock bottom? Answer yes. 

An 18-year-old student contacted me privately on Facebook after I discussed this issue on my radio show on Newstalk ZB. 

She said her doctor was reluctant to put her on any waiting list, and it took 6 months to get help from the mental health unit at Princess Margaret hospital using the inpatient and outpatient service.  

Where has all the Government funding for mental health gone? 

In September 2019, $8.68 million was approved for mental health services in Christchurch over three years. This was on top of $8.5m invested in Budget 2019 in response to the March 15 shootings. 

In April last year, the Government announced $40 million to fund services already available at 22 sites across the country, including at the University of Canterbury's health centre, making free mental health care available to more than 8000 students. 

Last month, the Government announced $10 million for new rangatahi services to access mental health and addiction support. 

Just days ago, the Government announced a funding boost to Youthline of nearly one million dollars. You can’t accuse the Government of not trying.  

Surely there are checks and balances in place to ensure this money is going to the right organisations at a speedy pace? 

It's a question the president of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors wants answers to.

Christian Macfarlane told me funding needs to be going to grass-roots organisations.

I wanted to ask the Health Minister how much money has been actually allocated, but his office didn't return my email. 

The Government said improving mental health will be one focus for budget 2021 - but improving the speed of wish the money is dished out is equally as important.