A cross-party report about ways to improve youth mental health and addiction services has been welcomed by specialists in the field.
Kāpiti Youth Support chief executive and acting co-chair of the National Network of Youth One Stop Shops, Raechel Osborne, said the Under One Umbrella report recommended a four-step plan to help youth in need.
“The national network is committed to improving outcomes in the sector and wants to do whatever is required to support the health and wellbeing of young New Zealanders.
“After years of youth mental health services being largely ignored, it’s incredibly heartening that in the lead-up to an election we have cross-party support on ways to do things better.”
She said the report identified fragmented, inequitable and inconsistent resourcing as a key issue for current service providers in this sector.
“It states that for youth mental health and addiction services to be effective they need to be comfortable, accessible, youth-focused, embedded in the community and support mental health as well as physical, social, cultural and spiritual health.
“Mental health and substance abuse starts very early in life, with around 75 per cent of mental health and addiction issues emerging by age 24.
“Many rangatahi are at much higher risk due to disengagement from education, training and employment opportunities.”
Osborne said investing in services that supported the wide range of issues affecting youth decreased the risks of poor long-term health outcomes and improved social and economic outcomes.
“Youth One Stop Shops provide a truly holistic service. We are embedded in our local communities and provide an extensive range of free health, mental health and social services including primary care, school-based health services, employment and housing support. The rangatahi that come through our doors have some of the highest and most complex needs, with many living in incredibly vulnerable situations.
“Our model of care needs to be responsive to these needs and have the ability to quickly adapt. You can’t treat youth mental health in isolation. The Youth One Stop Shop model works because as well as providing free health services, we work alongside youth to support them with the other issues they may be facing, whether that’s a lack of employment, an inability to find safe accommodation, or something else entirely.”
She said the report made it clear there needs to be a new approach to the resourcing structure for youth mental health and addiction services.
“At Kāpiti Youth Support we haven’t had an increase in baseline primary health funding for over 15 years, and we’re not alone, with most of the other One Stop Shops in the same situation.
“Over recent years One Stop Shops in New Plymouth and Hawke’s Bay have had to close their doors, while others have been forced to close their books. Our sector has been crying out for a consistent and sustainable funding model that would enable us to do even more to support New Zealand youth. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel — we just need an aligned approach so we have the resources we need to support young New Zealanders to flourish.”
Osborne said the report represented “a real opportunity to fundamentally change how the sector delivers services”.
“This is the first time MPs from across the political spectrum have come together to explore what needs to change so New Zealand can better support some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable youth. The fact we have all worked together to provide input into the report gives us hope that there’s a real commitment to providing better support for rangatahi who are doing it tough.”
There are 10 Youth One Stop Shops (YOSS) across New Zealand that belong to the national YOSS network.