A new residential service to care for people with multiple mental health and addiction issues has been tipped to improve a "significant gap" in the Rotorua and Taupō areas.
Ember Korowai Takitini has been contracted by Lakes District Health Board to set up residential services in the area.
Health board strategy, planning and funding director Karen Evison said in a report to the board, presented at a health board meeting on Friday, that the service would care for people whose complex needs are "beyond the normal capability" of currently contracted residential mental health providers.
Ember Korowai Takitini - established through the merger of Connect Supporting Recovery and Framework Trust - provides support services for mental health, addiction and intellectual disability, according to the organisation's website.
The organisation will purchase established properties in Rotorua and Taupō and refurbish them to suit clients' needs, Evison's report said.
Services will begin in February 2021 and become fully operational by July 2021.
"Ember is now actively engaging with Mangakino Lodge as part of its overall transition plan for those residents requiring transfer to Ember upon the opening of its Rotorua-based property."
In the meeting, board member Rob Vigor-Brown said he had previously been a "naysayer" about the project but had become a "convert".
Health board chief executive Nick Saville-Wood told the meeting the service would care for those with "high and complex" needs and looked like it was going to be "a really great service".
Evison's report also stated the health board is in the final stage of a contract negotiation with a preferred provider of a healthy homes programme that will focus on Tūrangi and other "high-deprivation areas" in the Taupō district.
The programme was aimed at supporting early measures to help people at risk of serious respiratory issues - including rheumatic fever - as a result of substandard housing conditions, the report said.
The health board was also discussing continued funding for the Falls and Fractures Prevention Programme with ACC.
The programme had been in place in the area since July 2017 and provided exercise programmes to frail and housebound people.
It also aimed to increase access to osteoporosis assessment and treatment for people over 50 who had suffered a fall from standing height that resulted in fracture.
Evison's report stated the ACC board was expecting to cease funding to health boards for the programme on December 31 "as there is little evidence of whether the initiatives have had the desired effect".
However, she said the initiatives were internationally recognised as best practice and three years was too short to see a "significant impact" on the reduction of ACC claims or costs.
If the ACC funding for the programme was pulled from the health board, it would see a reduction in the number of people at risk of falls or fractures being seen, as it would reduce services at QE Health in Rotorua and Lifestyle Potential - Reviva in Taupō, Evison said in her report.
"This is likely to reduce access for primary care, St John Ambulance and Lakes DHB Needs Assessment Service Coordination service."
In the meeting, Evison confirmed ACC hadn't yet made a final decision but the time was tight for district health boards to pull together the evidence to support continued funding.
Another report prepared for the meeting, by Māori health general manager Phyllis Tangitu, said a new programme named Te Kuku o Te Manawa had been set up to develop a Māori-led, whānau-centred approach to the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Its goal was to improve the overall services and quality of life of Māori with those health issues in the district health board area, Tangitu's report said.
Tangitu also said in her report a Te Arawa Covid-19 workforce hub had been created, due to concerns raised by Te Arawa whānau through the Te Arawa Covid-19 hub.
Areas of concern included kai, health, heating, finances, business and loss of employment. The new hub was a collaboration of resources between the health board, the Ministry of Social Development and Te Arawa Lakes Trust.
In the meeting, Tangitu said the aim of the workforce hub was to make sure people had access to a "suite of information" to assist them with those concerns.
Ngāti Tūwharetoa iwi representative Trudy Ake said the initiative was a "wonderful solution" but the health board needed to be mindful of "invisible people" who might not be accessing those resources.
"We as Māori have many invisible people," she said.
Tangitu agreed, saying the relationships across agencies aimed to capture those people but "there's much more we need to do".
The board meeting also heard an August financial update on the Lakes District Health Board that found an unfavourable result for the month with a consolidated deficit of $601,000, but a $153,000 surplus for the year-to-date, with a favourable variance of $496,000.
During the meeting, board chairman Dr Jim Mather said it was good to see a positive year-to-date report.
"In the context of where we were last year, we are in a very, very good position, albeit it is still very early in the financial year."