More than a year after general practitioners had "incredible hope" they are now feeling frustrated about the lack of funding they have seen from the Wellbeing Budget.
Fifth Avenue Medical Centre GP Dr Luke Bradford said there was a massive deficit in terms of the services GPs needed but the 2019 Wellbeing Budget was anticipated to bring $1.9b to improve mental health and addiction services.
This was then followed up with $40m in the 2020 Budget for free mental health services.
"But none of it has come out. Aside from little bits rolled out around the country for pilot projects," Bradford said.
Bradford, Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation co-chairman, said because of the deficit people were not getting the services they needed. For example at his clinic, there were roughly 1500 patients but 20 counsellor referrals a quarter.
"If you come in with mental health problems, and your world is in crisis, then 15 minutes, isn't gonna cut it.
"What we want, what we're desperate to be able to do, is provide the support in an ongoing way where people don't have to worry about the cost, where we don't have to worry about how we're going to pay the bills, because actually, this is what people need."
However, Pinnacle Midlands PHO medical director and GP Dr Jo Scott-Jones said some initiatives had been rolled out across in the Lakes area.
Te Tumu Waiora was established in 2017 and had been implemented in parts of the Lakes area he said.
"This is a mental health professional who, within the general practice is able to pick up referrals for people who have an immediate crisis or quite often they're dealing with people that are at the early stage of distress, so this is very much the fence before the cliff's edge."
Scott-Jones said there had certainly been an increase in anxiety following the Covid-19 response, and there was always more that could be done.
GPs were the frontline staff and Bradford agreed hospital mental health facilities were the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.
"But we will always, always, see patients and give them as much time and resources we can.
"Even if we can't get them counselling we'll try and hold their hand whilst we wait for something to become available."
Within the hospitals, both Lakes and Bay of Plenty District Health Board (DHB) are awaiting news on its business cases for upgrades to their mental health facilities.
The new build at Tauranga Hospital has an estimated budget of $30m and $15m for Whakatāne Hospital, from the Ministry of Health's Wellbeing Budget announced in December 2019.
A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said the Government had made a "record investment" into mental health and addiction services.
"Improving our approach to mental health and addiction remains one of the biggest long-term challenges facing New Zealand."
She said the investment announced this year would expand integrated primary mental health and addiction services to more than 100 GP sites and would be rolled out by July 2021 and include up to 350 FTE (fulltime equivalent) of health improvement practitioners, health coaches and support workers.
"Along with these services, there are announcements expected to be made for the Bay of Plenty DHB area in the coming weeks," the spokeswoman said.
The Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation (PHO) offered a primary mental health programme for people aged 12 years and older, with mild to moderate depression or anxiety, that GPs in its network can refer patients to.
The PHO also had a mental health social worker who was available to see people individually.
PHO chief executive Lindsey Webber said the GP was always a good place to start if people had problems.
"Don't not go because you have heard that services are busy or that your problem is not a priority or important during this time."
Webber said as the Wellbeing Budget was rolled out nationally, a proposal for a range of new services based in primary care settings in the Bay of Plenty region was currently being prepared and would likely be introduced over the next 12 months.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737
• Anxiety Helpline: 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.