Whanganui is leading the way with a new action plan to help primary health care providers respond better to mental health and addictions.
It comes after a growing national call for change - with alarming statistics that show at least one in five New Zealanders every year present a mental disorder that significantly impacts their life.
Early last year, the Whanganui Regional Health Network (WRHN) and the Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) started planning a new approach.
WRHN contracts manager Chloe Mercer said if we keep going the way we are going, change cannot happen.
And an new online system, called the Wellbeing Module, could be the first step.
At Friday's WDHB Combined Committee meeting, Mrs Mercer introduced the modular tools aimed to better equip general practitioners (GPs) and nurses to identify if their patients present mental health concern and provide long-term planning.
The Wellbeing Module has seven applications including an online referral directory, screening tools and information to upskill doctors and nurses.
Over the last six months, the tools have been introduced to all Whanganui general practices listed under the WRHN.
Mrs Mercer said the modules are currently only accessible within the general practice patient management system, however electronic referral to NGOs and community providers are currently being tested.
"This will allow NGOs and community providers to acknowledge receipt of referrals electronically and provide updates to general practice teams, as is appropriate," Mrs Mercer said.
She said the response from doctors and nurses had been positive but acknowledged that it was a big change and would take some getting used to.
"A lot of the nurses have said while they can see how this will work, they didn't know where they would find the time. And we will be working with them to overcome those barriers."
Mrs Mercer said the Wellbeing approach was not only about addressing mental health in the community but it was about changing our health care approach in a wider sense.
"The approach we are introducing is a holistic person-centred approach which acknowledges complex interactions between biological, psychological and social factors."
WDHB mental health nurse manager, Kath Butters, said the Ministry of Health has asked DHBs to take a lead in their communities to provide a better response to mental health while keeping in mind that no one provider can address the complex issues alone.
"The WDHB have been given funding under the Primary Care Mental Health Initiative (PCMIHI) and that funding will be ongoing."
Through their PHO, general practices receive additional funding from the DHB for primary care mental health. This funding will also be ongoing.
Ms Butters said the Wellbeing Module was only part of the new approach.
"We are delighted that Whanganui's approach has been presented to other DHBs around the country.
"It will take time but we are pleased with where we are heading."