The Government delivered its first Budget last week, and while health was the overall winner, there was little for mental health. The previous government’s ring-fenced $100 million for mental health was placed back into the wider pool of health funding.
In response to criticism about a lack of funding in Budget 2018, Health Minister David Clark at the time said he expected at least $50m more to be spent on mental health by District Health Boards across the country, which would come from their general allocation. However, the minister isn’t in a position to tell the DHBs how to spend that money, if it hasn’t been ring-fenced specifically.
The extended nurses in schools programme, cheaper GP visits, and a pilot programme giving 18 to 25 year olds free mental health counselling and therapy, were expected to help, Clark said. “There are quite a few smaller initiatives that will add up in this Budget for mental health … Of course, there will be more to do, but I’m really proud of the start we’ve made.”
Any additional mental health funding has been deferred until the inquiry reports back.
National Party mental health spokesperson Matt Doocey says the Government has “short changed the sector”. “The Ardern-Peters Government, who once called for change in the mental health system, has denied New Zealanders progress for at least another year.”
There is little targeted money for mental health in the Budget, and the health minister has “badly let down” Kiwis hoping for some good news, Doocey says.