Last week we learned the government had withdrawn funding for cochlear implants, this week it’s a pilot for mental health support workers:
The Government’s decision to axe a universally-supported pilot to improve the response to 111 mental health calls is nothing short of disgraceful, especially after Labour pledged to make mental health a priority, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.
“It has been revealed that Labour has scrapped a pilot in which a mental health nurse would attend mental health incidents alongside police and paramedics to ensure that people in distress receive timely responses that are tailored to their needs.
“Police spend around 280 hours a day responding to mental health calls. They do a good job, but are not mental health professionals so having a mental health nurse deployed to incidents with police would make a real difference.
“The increasing demand on police to respond to mental health crises is set to continue. That’s why the National Government set aside $8 million for the pilot as part of our $100 million mental health package.
“Police Minister Stuart Nash confirmed in answers to written questions the day of the Police Estimates hearing that the pilot would be canned, yet Police Commissioner Mike Bush told the hearing that police were very hopeful it would continue – in front of Mr Nash.
“Mr Nash has admitted that police are dealing with more and more mental health cases. The pilot would have eased pressure on police and improved the quality of the response for those experiencing mental distress.
“It beggars belief that this Government would axe the potentially game-changing pilot which had universal support from those on the frontline dealing with mental health, including mental health expert Nigel Fairley who said in February that the pilot was top of his spending list.
“The Government is again wilfully disregarding the expert advice and belittling calls from police and mental health experts to improve first responder processes.
“People need more help now. The Government must listen to the experts and reinstate funding for this pilot immediately.”
The government has an inquiry into mental health underway and last week announced the setting up of a criminal justice advisory group.
I will be very surprised if both don’t find a link between lack of support for the mentally ill and crime.
Deisntitutionalisation of mentally ill people was a humane policy but it hasn’t been backed up by enough support for many of them and their families.
That is one factor contributing to our high crime and incarceration rates.
Having mental health support people as first responders would not only help people in desperate need, it would make the work of the police less difficult and improve public safety.
Both Labour and the Greens say they stand for the most vulnerable, NZ First says it stands for improved law and order, withdrawing this funding is another example of their actions contradicting their rhetoric.
It is letting down the most vulnerable and their families and will make the work of police much harder.
It is also another example of wrong priorities. Had the government not wasted money on fee-free tertiary education, good looking horses, and other fripperies there would be more than enough for the deaf and mentally disabled.