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'Let’s get talking' to reduce the cost of mental health care

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

In New Zealand approximately 10 per cent of the $14.6 billion health budget is spent on mental health, with inpatient facilities costing around $16,000 per person for an average acute stay. Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui (Te Pou), has launched Let’s get talking, a tool kit that supports the delivery of talking therapies - a low-cost, effective way to improve a person’s health and wellbeing.

"Talking therapies, often called psychological therapies, help people to understand and make changes to their thinking, behaviour and relationships in order to relieve distress and improve wellbeing," says Te Pou chief executive, Robyn Shearer.

"Earlier intervention in the community, through talking therapies, is part of a stepped care approach that will reduce health care costs for New Zealand. It also reflects the sector’s move from a primarily treatment focussed system, to more recovery oriented system."

Backed by a strong international evidence base for improving mental health and addiction outcomes, talking therapies aim to prevent a person’s condition from deteriorating and requiring more costly and intensive support in the future.

"Talking therapies also allows a person to be treated in a less restrictive environment," says Ms Shearer. "This ideally, will reduce the severity of their illness and promote a faster recovery."

As the national centre of evidence based workforce development for the mental health, addiction and disability sectors, Te Pou developed the Let’s get talking toolkit in response to calls from practitioners and people experiencing mental health and addiction issues, for better access to talking therapies.

The initiative also aligns with the Ministry of Health’s, Mental Health and Addiction Service Development Plan 2012-2017, ‘Rising to the Challenge’, which encourages services to introduce a stepped care approach to meeting mental health and addiction needs.

Available on the Te Pou website, the Let’s get talking toolkit enables services and practitioners to plan and deliver talking therapies using a stepped care approach that promotes:

easier and fair access to therapies, particularly for high need populations and cultural groups

efficiently delivering therapies to meet people’s needs

effectively practising evidence based therapies

evaluating therapy interventions to support effective outcomes

optimising a skilled workforce mix

"Traditional mental health services have a primary focus of treatment," says Ms Shearer. "This is often, not always, disconnected from the things that can support someone’s wellbeing - love, work, play, housing, spirituality, belonging and community life."

"The sector is building some bridges to connect more social wellbeing and investment with outcome measures that are holistic in nature. This is encouraging, as in our experience, what doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get managed."

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