A $116 million plan to overhaul New Zealand's mental health system so it targeted more people has been welcomed by Tauranga health experts.

Brian Thomas, the manager of Family Link Trust, said he was encouraged by the Government's Budget announcement because the mental health system was underfunded and stretched.

"It's great they will research ways to do it better. Hopefully, it will filter down to more money at the coalface."

The Government has budgeted $116m to test different ways of helping people with mild to moderate and severe mental health issues. It has ring-fenced $100m for a special fund to support "innovative solutions to address mental health issues".


It aimed to build a better picture of mental health sufferers' needs and where there were gaps in services. Overall, the Government has budgeted an extra $224 million over four years for mental health services.

Mr Thomas said it looked to be all about clients and whether clients could get better services. The system was currently under-resourced and not correctly focused.

"The people that work in the mental health system are stretched - they are good people. We need more people."

He said it was important that once the gaps were identified, the Government put in money to fill the gaps.

Mr Thomas said there was a strong mood for change. He referred to mental health advocate and comedian Mike King who likened the current system to pouring money down a big hole.

Family Link supported families whose loved ones were mentally unwell, sometimes with addictions.

Bay of Plenty District Health Board chairwoman Sally Webb said there were some real pluses in the $3.9 billion for health.

The health budget targeted health boards, care and support workers, disability support and ambulance services, pharmaceuticals, elective surgery, bowel screening, mental health and primary healthcare.


Mrs Webb said it was great that more money was going into supporting the disabled and she was also pleased that the Government was continuing the bowel screening programme.

She would not find out what the Budget meant for the Bay of Plenty District Health Board until today.

Mrs Webb said mental health services were predominantly aimed at the top 3 per cent of people that needed the most intensive care, meaning a lot of people were not accessing mental healthcare.

The Budget announcement on mental health was very much about doing things differently, she said.


Health sector: $3.9 billion

New money for district health boards: $1.76 billion

Care and support workers: $1.54 billion

Others incl Pharmac, PHOs and mental health: $600 million