New local mental health crisis support service to launch

Nov 02, 2022

A new mental health crisis support service for Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago residents is expected to be operational before the end of the year, with Te Whatu Ora Southern confirming Central Lakes Family Services as its service provider.

The service will predominantly be for adults aged 18 years and over, but it will have flexibility to provide services for younger people from time to time if needed. 

Central Lakes Family Services is a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) deeply embedded across the Central Lakes region, with branches in Queenstown, Wānaka and Alexandra.  It runs the regional Women’s Refuge service and provides a range of social services to support families and individuals experiencing family violence, sexual harm, parenting support, perinatal supports, Ministry of Justice and Corrections approved programmes. 

The new mental health support service will be a two-stage launch, with the first stage - outreach support - expected to start in early December. It will sit alongside the current 24/7 regional crisis response service, providing more local options to support people in mental distress including those who may otherwise have needed to be admitted to acute inpatient mental health services. 

Anyone requiring acute mental health care will be able to access the service via a referral from Te Whatu Ora Southern’s Specialist Mental Health and Addiction (MHA) team or General Practices.  The MHA team and GPs will work closely with Central Lakes Family Services to ensure tangata whaiora (those seeking wellbeing) receive the support they need.

Services will include home-based support for people experiencing acute distress, as well as education and support for whānau and carers.  The workforce will include registered health professionals, social workers, and support workers.  Value will also be placed on peer support from the perspective of lived experience and recovery, so peer support staff will be an essential part of the team. 

The second stage of the crisis support service - providing short-term residential care – is still a work-in-progress and more details will be released once a suitable location is secured. 

The localised model of care meets areas of need identified through the 2021 Time for Change – Te Hurihanga review. It’s part of a larger programme of mental health reforms underway to bring mental health and wellbeing care closer to home and make it easier to access for everyone.*

The Central Lakes model was developed by clinicians, iwi, primary health providers, community agencies, NGOs, tangata whaiora (people seeking wellbeing), whānau and government agencies who worked together to design the services, using Te Whare Tapa Wha as the guiding pillars.

Map of Southern Mental Health and Addiction Networks, Central Lakes highlighted in yellow

Toni Gutschlag, Executive Director of Mental Health, Addictions and Intellectual Disability for Te Whatu Ora Southern, says the new service is designed to provide better crisis support and more options closer to home for Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago individuals experiencing mental distress.

“We’ve taken the Time for Change Te Hurihanga Review findings very seriously.  Our goal is to enable local people to access services within their community and keep them with their support networks as much as possible, so this is a big step towards transforming mental health and addiction services in a part of our region that has historically been underserved. 

“Every region has unique challenges and we’re grateful to the Central Lakes agencies and community members who worked with us to shape this ‘for our community, by our community’ model, particularly John MacDonald, who chairs the Central Lakes Mental Health and Addictions Network.

“Strong professional relationships and a joined-up healthcare pathway for crisis intervention support will be essential for success and I’m particularly excited about being able to offer a home-based service.

“We’re also delighted to be partnering with Tina Mongston and the Central Lakes Family Services team. As a well-established and respected regional organisation, they already work closely with mental health services and key agencies so their skills, knowledge and experience will add huge value. Together they will ensure each person under their care is assessed and treated with discretion and dignity, and that they feel safe and supported throughout their journey,” said Ms Gutschlag.

Tina Mongston, General Manager of Central Lakes Family Services, says it’s a privilege to be chosen and her team is looking forward to offering the much-needed mental health support service.

“Since we began operating in 1992, we’ve adapted and grown our services to meet the changing needs of our local communities so offering a mental health support service feels like a natural expansion. Creating a feeling of safety and trust is paramount in our line of work and I’m fortunate to have a team of really experienced locals who are deeply embedded in the region and have strong relationships with the services, health providers, businesses, schools, and groups we work with.  We all care deeply about our communities and feel honoured to have the opportunity to help more people in their time of need.”

Both mayors of the district are also in full support, with Queenstown Lakes District Council’s Glyn Lewers saying it’s “wonderful news to have this much needed localised service” and Tim Cadogan of Central Otago District Council saying that “it will provide invaluable support for our communities”.

The model is designed to scale accordingly and there will be regular reviews to understand community need and utilisation. Once the service is launched, it will continue to be fine-tuned and scaled up to ensure the best outcomes for the communities.

* Time for Change – Te Hurihanga is a focused year-long project led by Te Whatu Ora Southern to address health, equity, location, social and systemic issues and put people at the centre of care. 

It’s part of the direction to transform Aotearoa’s mental health and addiction system over the next 10 years. The new health and disability reforms recognise that mental wellbeing is influenced by factors including income, housing, and employment - requiring a whole-of-government approach. It aims to support people to stay well, and have access to help that works for them, when and where they need it. 

More information about the Time for Change – Te Hurihanga programme and review is available at www.southernhealth.co.nz/timeforchange

Main image (Supplied): From left: Central Lakes Family Services Clinical Manager Fiona Young and General Manager Tina Mongston 

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