Initiative to boost child mental health services

Last updated 11:30 04/04/2012

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Nurses and specially-trained youth workers will be employed at low decile schools as part package of new initiatives aimed at better mental health services for young people, Prime Minister John Key has announced.

Key has this morning unveiled a complete overhaul of mental health services for young people in a speech to experts in the field at Te Papa, in Wellington.

A $62 million package of initiatives, including a new "Social Media Innovations Fund", was announced.

"So many kids are on the right track and have high aspirations for their future," Key said.

"But I worry about some kids - those who find the transition from childhood to adulthood tough going."

One in five of all young people experienced some form of mental health problem during their transition to adulthood.

In a series of changes, nurses and specially trained youth worked would be employed at lower decile schools to help identify students with mental illness and get them appropriate care. Schools would have to take more responsibility for the wellbeing of their students, Key said.

"The Education Review Office will begin measuring how well schools are doing when it comes to student wellbeing, and over time we expect them to show improvements in areas like bullying," Key said.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said nurses would go in to decile three secondary schools to carry out youth development checks and make referrals where necessary. Nurses were already working in decile one and two schools, she said.

Specially trained youth workers would work alongside the nurses in "selected low decile secondary schools" to further strengthen support for young people in need, she said.

There would also be a review of alcohol and drug education programmes targeted at youth, Parata said.

As well as the $16m over four years going in to schools as part of the package, changes would also be implemented across three other areas:
online, in families and communities and in the health system.

"We need to lift our game to keep up with these kids, who are quickly adopting new technology like smartphones or using Twitter and Facebook," Key said.

New ideas for better connecting with young people would be sought through a new "Social Media Innovations Fund". The fund would be aimed at keeping providers of youth services "technologically up to date".

The package also included a boost in funding for primary health care, new wait-time targets for child and adolescent mental health services and a new Whanau Ora approach.

"Parents can often find it hard to tell the difference between normal teenage behaviour and mild to moderate mental illness," Key said.

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Non-government organisations (NGOs) would get more funding to get more information out to parents about what help was available and how to find it.

The whole package would be reviewed after two years.

- The Dominion Post

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