Warning of crisis in mental health

22:17, Jul 28 2014
David Meates
DAVID MEATES: Unprecedented growth in demand for mental health services.

More money is urgently needed to avoid a looming mental health crisis, says Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) chief executive David Meates.

Unprecedented growth in demand for mental health over the past three years showed no sign of slowing and was unsustainable, he said.

While the DHB had managed demand to date, it had run out of resources to address further increases within its current budget.

"We're at a point where we need to invest further resourcing if we are going to get on top of this."

More community services, including home-based care for acute patients, were needed in the next two to three months.

A formal request had been made to the Ministry of Health, and negotiations for funding options were "ongoing", Meates said.


Health Minister Tony Ryall said he backed the CDHB's proposal.

"We are supportive of the initiative to increase mental health services in the Christchurch community, and the Ministry of Health is currently working through the detail of the proposal."

Labour health spokeswoman Annette King said the issue needed immediate action from the Government.

"The message to the Government and the ministry is, are they going to wait until there is a disaster before they act, because that can happen very fast in mental health, someone inappropriately left out of assistance on the street, somebody who should have been having treatment that didn't get in."

In addition to specialist, community and hospital services, the CDHB funded 40 non-government mental health providers.

About 5000 people were under CDHB mental health care, specialist mental health services manager Toni Gutschlag said.

Admissions to child and youth mental health inpatient services had increased by 83 per cent since the 2011 earthquakes.

Demand from adults for community services had increased 30 per cent and presentations to psychiatric emergency services had increased by 37 per cent.

Adult admissions to the adult acute inpatient service at Hillmorton Hospital had risen by 15 per cent over the past two years.

CDHB member Andrew Dickerson said he was concerned about the situation.

About a third of the population were still "stuck in limbo" with EQC and insurance claims, suffering from anxiety and despair.

"The psycho-social recovery of those who have been worst affected by the earthquakes is every bit as important as the anchor projects in our city. These people need our support and empathy - we have to ensure they are not left behind."

Canterbury Community Trust chief executive Louise Edwards said applications to it highlighted a growing concern about the increase in mental health issues in Canterbury.

Last week the trust announced more than $1.4 million in donations for organisations in the health and wellbeing sector to target mental health demands.

"We are hearing that referrals for mental health treatment are at an all-time high. Isolation for many is a huge factor, which coupled with sometimes inadequate medical and community support, can be the tipping point," Edwards said.

The Press