Quake-stricken Canterbury needs urgent action on mental health cuts

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Cuts to Canterbury’s mental health budgets are disgraceful, the Public Service Association says – and an urgent dialogue’s needed about how services can be maintained.

The Ministry of Social Development says funding for community psychological services has been slashed from $1.6 million to $200,000, and trauma counselling has halved.

Meanwhile, Canterbury DHB’s mental health funding is $222 per person, while the national average is $243 – and it’s expected to fall by $15 per person this year, while the average will increase by $10.

The Public Service Association’s National Secretary Erin Polaczuk says the cuts will put lives at risk.

“We understand they were ordered before Sunday’s 5.7 magnitude shake, but the timing of these revelations couldn’t be worse,” Ms Polaczuk says.

“We’re deeply concerned for Cantabrians, who deserve better than this.”

Ms Polaczuk says cuts to community funding mean more people will turn to the DHB’s services – which are already under pressure and facing their own budget cuts.

“Our members are managing increasing workloads for diminishing funding.

“Now they’ll be picking up the slack – while taking care of their own mental health, trauma to their families and repairs to their homes.

“I’ve asked for an urgent meeting with the DHB’s chief executive, David Meates.

“We need to work out a plan to ensure mental health services are adequate and sustainable – and meet the pressing needs of Cantabrians still traumatised by the 2011 quake.”