The Government’s mental health and addiction programme Access and Choice has hit the one millionth support session since it started delivering services in 2020, Health Minister Ayesha Verrall has announced.
Access and Choice was set up in 2019 in response to the Government’s review of mental health, to provide services in primary health care settings like GPs for people with mild to moderate mental health issues.
“Each month, tens of thousands of New Zealanders are benefiting from this new programme which offers mental health support in health care settings they are used to such as GP clinics,” said Ayesha Verrall.
“The roll out of the programme was affected by COVID-19 but we are now seeing it really ramp up. For example, it took around two and a half years to get to 500,000 sessions, but less than a year since then to double that number and get to a million sessions.
“New sites are also coming onstream every month. Now you can get free and easy-to-access face-to-face support from Kaitaia through to Bluff, and more than 600 locations in between.
“We’ve built an entirely new mental health and addiction service from the ground up. The wellbeing support provided in general practice alone has population coverage of over three million New Zealanders,” said Ayesha Verrall.
Figures show approximately 40,000 to 60,000 sessions a month are being delivered and this number will continue to grow as the phased nationwide rollout of services continues.
Access and Choice services don’t require a referral and are appealing to a wide cross-section of Kiwis wanting to address mild and moderate mental wellbeing challenges.
“This Government inherited a neglected and underfunded mental health system,” said Ayesha Verrall.
“In 2019, we made a $455 million investment to expand primary mental health care and today over New Zealand people are getting help they need.
“Access and Choice is helping break down the stigma around mental health and addiction challenges and reinforcing that it’s ok, to not be ok. A key is being able to do something about it – and that’s the value of these free and easy-to-access services.”
“As well as Access and Choice, we have also put mental health support in schools in large parts of the country through Mana Ake and other programmes. We’ve funded additional mental wellbeing supports in every university and tertiary institution and we’ve boosted support online, on the phone and through smart apps,” said Ayesha Verrall.
“We have stood up culturally appropriate by Māori, for Māori primary mental health and addiction services around the country which are reaching tangata whaiora who have never reached out for support before. We are also targeting support for Pacific, youth, rural and Rainbow communities.
“This Government hasn’t shied away from the challenges we inherited. We’ve kept our promise to continue the important mahi of rebuilding the mental health system and replacing its aging infrastructure,” said Ayesha Verrall.