Wānaka Sun       

New mental health services for medical centres

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 27 Aug, 2020 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

Better access to mental health support is on its way to the Southern region, with the introduction by WellSouth of seven new Health Improvement Practitioners in primary care.

One of these will be based in Wanaka,

  This is the beginning of a new initiative that will see further support roles within southern general practices and community-based organisations over the coming months.  WellSouth, Southern DHB and the NGO sector are working collaboratively and in partnership to implement this programme.

The mental health clinicians are based at general practices and work directly with GPs, nurse practitioners and practice teams. They provide free and timely support for patients and clients wanting help and guidance with behaviour change - including addressing stress, addictions, social issues, or long-term physical health struggles.

Unlike most mental health practitioners, the HIPs do not carry a case load. Rather they are introduced to the patient by a GP or practice nurse and often see patients on the same day.

“The immediacy of the help and the normalising of mental health services are among the benefits of the is model,” said WellSouth Director of Nursing Wendy Findlay. “GPs and nurses will be able to do what is called a ‘warm handover' meaning they can introduce a patient immediately to the HIP for support, without having to make an appointment for a later date.”

The initiative is an important step that moves towards the aspirations of the Southern mental health and addictions system, said Independent Chair of the Southern Health Mental Health and Addictions Network Leadership Group, John MacDonald.

“It is great to see one of the key initiatives of the He Ara Oranga, Mental Health Review coming to fruition and also new services in primary care for people with mild to moderate mental health issues, an area also identified in the Southern mental health and addiction system's Raise Hope  – Hāpai te Tūmanako Strategy.

“It is also of particular benefit at this time as we are implementing the psychosocial response to the Covid-19 crises, and there is a need for these services across the district but particularly in the Queenstown-Lakes District.”   

The launch of the primary mental health service follows a successful ten-month trial at Te Kaika in Dunedin and Invercargill Medical Centre.

Dr Kim Ma'ia'i, Te Kaika Medical Director, said the health improvement practitioner brought such great value that the general practice wouldn't want to be without one now: “It was an instant game-changer. A win-win for patient and practice.”

The first group of practices hosting the new HIPs are those with larger enrolled populations of Māori, Pacific Island and youth, and those which can also accommodate the new health resource.

Providing access to extra mental health support at an early stage and closer to home is  particularly important in the large Southern region, said WellSouth CEO Andrew Swanson-Dobbs: “General practice teams tell us that extra mental health resource is one way we can support them.

“The aim of this model of care is to provide a little help, to a lot of people, and to help make the support accessible and immediate. Our mental health improvement practitioners will help general practice teams enhance well-being and overall health of their patients.”

As well as the Health Improvement Practitioner (HIP), health coaches and support workers are also expected to be introduced later this year. Health coaches and community support workers work as part of the integrated team within practices to improve self-management skills for people needing extra support to improve their health and wellbeing.

View edition 989 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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