A new health initiative announced will see people in the Nelson Tasman region access some free mental health support without the need for a diagnosis.

Health Minister Andrew Little joined Nelson MP Rachel Boyack and local health professionals to announce funding for Te Tumu Waiora in the region. This will see the region receive a share of $145 million toward GPs referring clients to health coaches and health improvement practitioners, who will be located in their medical centres.  These professionals are there to support people and guide them toward the help they require, offering a free service that will in time be available to all.

“People don’t have to have a diagnosis to access help. It’s about having a conversation when something is bothering them,” says general manager mental health, addictions and disability support services at Nelson Marlborough Health, Jane Kinsey.

Health coaches and the health improvement practitioners (HIP) will meet with clients who have presented to their GPs with a range of issues including anxiety, substance abuse, and trauma. People can also be referred for worries about their children, stress management from long-term health conditions, long term pain or any other matter that is causing anxiety for the client. Jane says no criteria needs to be met, instead it is responding to distress early and reducing waiting times and barriers. It’s also about easing the stigma of mental health.

“This announcement is music in our ears,” says Jane “It is free and convenient. Te Tumu Waiora began and was funded in a few pilot practices from 2019, including Wakefield Health Centre.  HIP Dave Emerson says he sees eight to twelve clients a day there and has more recently been joined by health coach Kim Smith.

Of those referred nationally, 43 per cent are being seen on the same day they ask for help, being introduced by their GP immediately following their consultation.Nelson Bays PHO chief executive, Sara Shaughnessy, says local data is showing decreased emergency department presentations due to mental health concerns following the introduction of Te Tumu Waiora in several medical centres across the region.

“It’s the right person in the right place at the right time, making the right connection,” she says.

“This is the start of dealing with the avalanche of frontline need which doctors have struggled to deal with,” says Andrew Little.

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