The criticism by the New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC) of the Government's $40 million dollar health mental funding package ignores the “what works” evidence, and is anchored in longstanding industry myth and ideology more suited to “dark ages” thinking and practice, says the NZIPC.
The Government in Budget 2019 allocated $1.9 billion to improving mental health and addiction services, including a mental health service expected to help 325,000 people with mild to moderate needs by 2024.
After a start at 22 sites in nine District Health Board areas, the service would now be extended to another 100 sites around the country with $40m in funding which was first allocated in 2019.
Under the scheme, the number of people in community organisations, such as clubs and sporting organisations, who can undertake 'MH101' and 'Addiction 101' programmes.
This would see an additional 8000 extra places available for people over the next four years.
It would also see 350 nurses upskilled, receiving training to offer mental health and addictions assessments, advice and referrals to visit when they visit their GP.
“The “what works” evidence over 70 years of outcome research reveals that the average amount of time it takes to train someone in providing mental health services is 50 hours of training. Brief intervention training, as that which is being proposed by the Government, means a more rapid delivery of service providers to the front-line, decreasing client waiting list times dramatically.
NZAC President Christine MacFarlane asks "Why waste all that taxpayer money giving scratch training to a whole new workforce when there's a much better qualified, hugely experienced and already well-trained workforce just waiting to be put to good use right now by this Government?"
This question pre-supposes that qualifications, experience, long periods of training over time, and mandatory supervision somehow contributes to better outcomes for mental health consumers, when the outcome evidence reveals that this is not the case. These are popular and embedded sector practice myths, and have captured both public and private service delivery funders by virtue of these myths being continuously repeated over time.
The answer to the question is simple: the NZAC cannot point to any evidence that what the services their association members provides actually works, because the NZAC has never measured its practice member outcomes. This omission of client outcome measurement was a key factor as to why Family Court Counselling was dispensed with back in 2013, and it seems the NZAC has learnt nothing in the intervening 7 years about the importance of producing evidence of successful service delivery outcome with clients.
The NZIPC is delighted that the Government has chosen to align this new mental health service programme with GP Practices – this alignment has been a core part of overseas mental health service provision for many years, and is long overdue in New Zealand.
“When the NZAC is able to produce clinically significant evidence of its service delivery outcomes, then they will be in a much stronger position to criticize the Govt – until then, it just sounds like whiny patch protection from a group of poorly informed ideologues. NZ needs practical, effective, and service-relevant mental health service delivery at this time, not ineffective, expensive and time-heavy “more of the same” from organisations such as the NZAC.
NB: The New Zealand Independent Practitioners Collective (NZIPC) has been established to represent allied health practitioners who are “outcome-informed” in their work.
An “outcome-informed” allied health practitioner is one who holds no particular loyalty to any specific model of practice; is not bound by the political, ideological, cultural, or arbitrary practice requirements of any particular self-appointed professional or special interest group; and who formally measure their client outcomes as a matter of course, being directed in their practice work by the outcome feedback of their clients.
NZIPC membership (which is currently free) is open to allied health practitioners in the education, health, justice and social welfare government agencies, community based social service agencies, Iwi Social Services, Pacific Island Organisations, and private practice disciplines.
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