Tararua's youth facing mental health or addiction issues will now be able to seek help.
Tararua Community Youth Services chairman Terry Hynes and manager Jeanne O'Brien have been advocating for almost 10 years to get help for the district's young people but without success – until now.
Last Wednesday Hynes was informed that the Mid-Central District Health Board had contracted Mash Trust to provide Tararua-wide mental health and AOD (Alcohol and Other Drugs) services based in Dannevirke and Pahiatua for all young people aged under 19.
Hynes said details had yet to be worked out but it meant the need for this service had finally been recognised.
O'Brien said after years of getting nowhere the trust decided to seek help at a higher level so Hynes approached Labour List MP based in Wairarapa Kieran McAnulty.
He was able to set up a meeting between Hynes and Minister of Health David Clark.
From this meeting it was acknowledged that Tararua was under-funded in many areas and that young people were unable to access services that were available to young people in Palmerston North.
McAnulty visited the Dannevirke Youth Centre on Wednesday, one of two youth centres, Tararua Community Youth Services invest in, along with Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis.
A presentation on services was given which outlined the wide range of services the Youth Centres and service provides.
O'Brien said the centre supports over 350 young people a year through a range of contracts or services.
Services include drivers' licences, supporting young people to gain education or employment, mentoring, support and advocacy, holiday programmes with flavour, youth activities and a range of information and help.
The service works within a Youth Development framework and supports young people from 10 to 24, some through contracting and others through relationships built.
McAnulty said after watching the presentation what stood out for him was the varied range of programmes, the support, the activities and the range of outcomes achieved by the Youth Centre and its staff.
O'Brien said the centre's focus was youth development.
"We are always seeking funding so that we can provide what young people need to connect with."
But it was in the area of AOD that there was the biggest lack.
"We are finding that young people are being recognised with addiction issues at an early age and seeking support with nowhere to go.
"We are not asking for miracles – just access to services that others get in the MidCentral district.
"When services are not delivered unhealthy environments are formed and our community has been well informed about the issues through the many hui, community profiles and assessments."
O'Brien said there had been little investment into Tararua at a local level and when the centre employs people from other towns to work in Tararua that did not support good economic development, in fact it support other districts.
"When communities lack this other indicators of unhealthy communities will thrive like gangs and levels of poverty."
Tararua Community Youth Services have identified these issues through their conversations with young people, she said.
"We are not seeking the funding ourselves but it needs to be sought and invested in Tararua just like other services for young people – free health care for those under 24, youth specific counselling services, investment into Youth Centres."
McAnulty said it was important that organisations such as Tararua Community Youth Services didn't have to keep pushing every time they needed funding.
Hynes said the problem he had was that Tararua Community Youth Services was probably one of the most misunderstood organisations.
"People don't know what we do here, what the staff and the team do, and what all the young people do. A lot of people just think it's a youth club."
O'Brien spoke about the Youth Centres in Dannevirke and Pahiatua.
"They are developed Safe Spaces for young people and we are a Youth Work organisation.
"If you went to Palmerston North you would visit the Youth Space (fully funded by Palmerston North City Council), YOSS (fully funded by DHB for young people 11-24), Whakapai Hauora (a range of services for whanau including AOD for Rangatahi), Transition Services, Alt Ed and Activity Centres.
"There is just us in Tararua and we get our funding independently and are thankful to those that support us. But young people deserve services just like any other young person within our district and we will continue to advocate for this."