Three Northland mental health service providers will receive funding from the Government from $6 million of Ministry of Health funding to enhance a pilot project.

Read more: Whangārei mental health unit staff survey shows employees under strain

The ministry is rolling out $6m to 22 general practices and kaupapa Māori providers spread across seven district health boards in the country.

The Northland DHB received funds for health care providers Bush Road Medical Centre in Kamo, KeriMed Doctors in Kerikeri and Te Hau Āwhiowhio ō Otangarei Trust.


The money will help finance existing pilot project Te Tumu Waiora, a joint initiative between the Northland DHB, Mahitahi Hauora and Arataki Ministries launched in 2018.

"Te Tumu Waiora has been designed as a holistic model, supporting and addressing the physical, emotional and social needs of patients," Ian McKenzie, NDHB's general manager for mental health and addiction services, said.

"The Government's announcement is very exciting for Northland as it ensures that this model of care can be sustainably funded."

Te Tumu Waiora puts wellbeing at the core of primary health care services and introduces dedicated mental health specialists – a Health Improvement Practitioner (HIP) and a health coach – into general practices.

The DHB had approved a $600K fund last year to support a one-year pilot which was previously only trialled in Auckland.

For Bush Road Medical Centre, Te Tumu Waiora was a game-changer. Clinical psychologist Tara Mueller joined the Kamo practice as the new HIP last year and has been helping patients with anxiety and stress.

"Tara has been fully booked every day since she started which shows how high the demand is," Dr Andrew Miller, GP and partner at Bush Road, said.

"Having Tara in the team means we can help people in distress on the spot. It's a more seamless approach. It shouldn't matter which door patients come through to access the right help."


Miller said seeing the HIP for a one-on-one consultation was the starting point of solving a larger mental health issue for many patients.

"For us [general practitioners] it has made an incredible impact on the way work. We are more confident to ask patients difficult questions."

Next to HIPs, health coaches have been employed through the Te Tumu Waiora pilot to help to improve self-management skills for people struggling to manage long-term medical conditions.

"Access to both roles is as simple as the doctor or nurse walking with a patient down the corridor of their practice to be introduced to the HIP or health coach depending on their presenting need," McKenzie said.

Te Hau Āwhiowhio ō Otangarei Trust, hopes it will be able to expand mental health service in and outside the Otangarei community with the additional funding from central government.

Trust CEO, Martin Kaipo, said with help of the DHB fund last year they launched a programme aimed to get members of the whānau out of isolation and bring them back into employment.

He said people needed social support to manage mental health issues and drug dependencies, and to be successful in the workforce.

Quinton Bush is co-ordinating the trust's mental health programme and has been working with 120 members of the whānau since it was launched.

"People who join the programme become members which gives them invested interest," Bush explained.

"As a first step, we're looking at confidence-building exercises like public speaking and other basic skills.

"We've had a 26-year old gentleman. It took him nine months to make eye contact when speaking to people. That was a huge success for us. He is now employed," Bush said.

Bush said mental health is an evolving field and it would be great to develop care and services on a broader spectrum with further funding.

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Otangarei Trust Mental Health funding