New approach to primary mental health and addictions care

Media release 10 October 2018 | Counties Manukau Health (CM Health) is implementing a new approach to provide primary mental health care in general practices to support the needs of the community.

The Wellness Support programme is based on the principles of kind, clear, continuous and effective care for patients.  These principles emerged from conversations with patients, literature and guideline review and awareness of other initiatives in New Zealand.  

“Wellness Support is a response to having listened to our community of both patients and health professionals.  One benefit of this new approach will certainly be improved access for patients who have anxiety or milder symptoms, and those under 18 years,” says CM Wellness Support project manager Pam Hewlett.

The former approach meant that patients only had access to funded mental health care in general practice when they were diagnosed with moderate or severe depression and were over 18 years of age. Wellness Support opens access to any enrolled person with a mental health need for whom the primary care practice nurse (PN) or general practitioner (GP) and patient both decide it is likely to be useful.  

Primary mental healthcare provided by GPs, PNs and a wider team in general practice, can mean people avoid waitlists and re-telling their story, and instead they experience continuity and joined up, person-centred care. This wider team includes access to a specialist mental health and addictions workforce – known as Integrated Locality Care (ILoC).

Dr Sophie Ball, Clinical Lead for Primary Care Mental Health says: "My involvement with this work, and hearing patients talk about what they value in their recovery, has made me reflect on my own practice. I no longer have the default I used to have of referring to psychology - and I have been surprised to see people improve significantly with quite small changes to their lifestyle through some behavioural activation and re-engaging with their community."

Among the early adopters of the Wellness Support programme is Te Manu Aute Whare Oranga, a free integrated whaanau community health centre at Manurewa Marae. The practice already provides rongoa – traditional Maaori healing practices – to treat people with emotional and spiritual mental health issues.

“We wanted to participate because we have high rates of people with chronic mental health illness and life stresses in our practice”, says clinical director Ranche JohnsonThrough the Wellness Support model we are able to offer different funded options to our whaanau and our patients.”

The approach is being rolled out across 10 practices initially, with a view to introduce the new approach to more practices in the future after initial learning and improvement cycles have occurred. An evaluation of Wellness Support will be completed July 2019.  

Issued by:   Counties Manukau Health Communications
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