Medical centres nationwide have been given $6 million to provide mental health services as the Government looks to spend hundreds of millions it set aside in the Budget.

The money would mean 22 general practices and a kaupapa Māori provider - which already work in the field but aren't funded - would get assistance, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark announced today.

The Government says it should mean about 170,000 patients in Northland, Auckland, the central North Island, Wellington and Canterbury keep access to help.

"It makes sense to start with those providers already offering mental health support but who have not been previously directly funded by Government for it and who did not have certainty of funding going forward," Ardern said.


"They have received nothing to do that to date."

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health is expected to shortly put out a call for pitches from new providers of free mental health services from 2020. About $30 million has been set aside for the first round.

"This will be available nationally, allowing local collaborations of health providers anywhere in New Zealand to put forward proposals for their particular region," Clark said.

"We want to see new and existing health providers, iwi and NGO groups put forward their proposals for innovative services."

The announcements come as the Government looks to spend $455 million set aside over four years for widening the reach of front-line mental health services to an extra 325,000 people, particularly those with mild to moderate needs.

"We have to make sure that rather than just focusing on those who are crisis – which we also have to do – that we do much more work in that primary mental health space, reaching and supporting people before they find themselves in a crisis situation," Ardern told reporters at the announcement in Auckland's Flat Bush today.

The May Budget included a $1.9 billion boost for the mental health and addiction programmes over five years in a response to the largest inquiry into the sector in decades.

That came inquiry held 400 meetings and heard 5200 submissions from organisations and members of the public.


The review handed down a swathe of recommendations last December but the Government's response was pushed back several times - eventually to May. It has held workshops to consult on how to spend the money since.

While mental health advocacy groups have been supportive of the spending, some have called for Clark to pick up the pace for deciding on funding for struggling services.

Ardern today defended the pace of the work.

"We announced this three months ago and here we are today putting money straight into those services that are ready to go," she said, adding the Government had already boosted support for mental health with earlier programmes, including by rolling out more nurses into schools and increasing the number of mental health workers.