All mental health-related calls to 111 and other lines will be triaged through a single system from early next year.
The new system will deal with about 45,000 Kiwis a year, the Government expects.
Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman said the expectation was for all District Health Boards to be covered by the end of 2017.
The new mental health triage system would be established within the existing national telehealth service.
Launched last year, the service brings together Ministry-funded health advice lines. Nurses use a clinical decision tool to direct cases to different services.
"The 24/7 phone service includes Healthline and a range of other mental health support helplines, offering a front-door to the wider health system over the phone and online," Dr Coleman said in a speech to the Royal New Zealand College of General Practice's conference.
The new triage system will be established using a share of $12 million of extra funding over four years allocated to increase support for people to access mental health services.
Demand for mental health and addiction services has increased from around 96,000 people a decade ago (2.3 per cent of the population) to 164,000 now (3.5 per cent of the population).
Other initiatives to be covered by the $12 million funding are more money for primary care and social services through an online mental health expert advice service, and a programme to map existing services and better direct people to them.