Mental health and suicide prevention services under threat at Nelson Marlborough DHB due to restructure

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board faces the loss of effective and proven mental health services during its current restructuring, reinforcing the reality that DHB’s are struggling to fund essential community mental health treatment due to Government underfunding, says the Public Service Association.

“We believe the restructure currently being finalised at Nelson Marlborough DHB will be seriously damaging to the community, and is completely avoidable – it’s about Government priorities,” says Erin Polaczuk, PSA National Secretary.

Significantly, NMDHB managements’ restructure of mental health services could see the loss of the region’s highly effective Child and Adolescent Mental Health After Hours Crisis Service (CAMHS). 

 “There has been only one suicide in fourteen years of a client in the care of NMDHB’s CAMHS service, which assists young people to the age of 18 and is a unique service in this region – their efforts have been working in this community,” says Ms Polaczuk.

 “Nationally, we have one of the highest youth suicide rates in the OECD, and a dedicated mental health crisis service like CAMHS is crucial in reducing suicide rates.”

“The only reason to now merge this successful service with the wider Adult Mental Health Service – as in other DHBs – is to ‘find efficiencies’ in an already bare–bones health system, and this is incredibly ill-conceived and blind to the evidence”.

To make matters worse, the more intensive family focused work currently done by the Home Based Treatment Team for people over 18 years of age is to be disestablished.  The Home Based Treatment Team works with people who are undergoing significant mental health crises, primarily with adults who are at high risk of suicide. NMDHB also closed the Tipahi Mental Health inpatient rehabilitation service this month.

“The Government should be actively funding successful services like these to reduce our horrendous suicide rates rather than cutting them to compensate for continued under-resourcing of the sector,” says Ms Polaczuk.

“It may sound complex, but the simple underlying truth is that this government has underfunded the health sector by over $2 billion since they took office, and DHB services now bear the burden of trimming their budgets to keep the Minister happy.”