New Project Aims to Break Mental Health Barriers in Youth Justice» 30/03/2012, Posted by Site Admin
Young people who are involved in the justice system will have earlier and more standardised access to mental health and addiction services as a result of a new project being rolled out in the Midland Region.
The Associate Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman announced in November last year that forensic mental health services nationwide were being boosted by $33 million to improve early intervention and treatment for youth offenders. The funding, spread over four years, will provide mental health, alcohol and drug assessment services for the 4200 young offenders who appear in youth courts each year, allowing referral to relevant health services as appropriate.
Marita Ranclaud, Portfolio Manager for Mental Health and Addictions at Lakes DHB, says the project has been welcomed in the Midland Region, where youth offending numbers are high and service resources are relatively low. The project has moved along quickly, starting with the Ministry of Health establishing a national external reference group, which has three Midland members: Eseta Nonu-Reid, the Midland Mental Health and Addictions Network Regional Director; Dr Arran Culver, Consultant Psychiatrist, Hauora Waikato; and Marita.
The group was tasked with a series of actions to find better ways to improve what are known as 'youth forensic services'. Youth forensic services are described as being specialist mental health and alcohol and other drug services for young people with mental disorders, AOD problems, and/or intellectual disabilities, and who have become involved in the justice system.
The steering group has already looked at a stock take of services, and has held extensive conversations about how a new range of youth forensic services will be rolled out.
The project has a tight timetable, with a new youth justice facility is set to be built by 2013, providing 8 - 10 new secure forensic mental health beds for young people requiring hospitalisation and which will take the bulk of the funds committed to the project.
Dr Jonathan Coleman, in announcing the project, said the new services would help fill the gaps in current youth forensic mental health services and assist DHBs in providing a nationally consistent level of youth focused services across the country. The location of this facility has yet to be decided. See http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/new-youth-forensic-mental-health-services-announced and http://www.working4youth.co.nz/view-notice.php?id=464&
Whether or not the facility is located in the Midland region, the region will gain greatly from the projectas it aims to support improved access to the provision of services to young offenders.
'As a Midland population, we do have among the highest rates of youth offending in the country,' Marita said. 'We also have the highest number of youth justice beds.' Waikeria Prison in the Waikato has a youth wing while Rotorua has the Youth Justice Residence. 'So statistically, this is very important for the Midland region because we are an at risk population.'
'This project will give us greater community-based resources, whereas at the moment, Midland only has two regionally funded FTEs providing consult liaisons to the Youth Court at Lakes and Bay of Plenty. So the first target being lined up will likely be increasing resources to cover every youth court in the Midland region. This will require a project approach that is inclusive of CYFS and Justice. The outcome for the young people would be much better access rates to the mental health and addictions related services they need, because these problems were often a big contributor to their offending, says Marita.
The task ahead should not be underestimated, as Midland has the most underdeveloped plan for youth forensics. 'This is why it is a very important project, particularly in the delivery of services 'on-the-ground', given the rates of youth offending across the five DHBs in the Midland region. The next phase will be two fold. The development of an action plan by the Ministry of Health based on the steering group's recommendations will be transformed into a business case for the inpatient unit. Regional implementation plans, developed by each district will become the basis for the purchase of community-based FTE resources. At the same time, work will be done on the development of a youth forensic workforce nationally and regionally to fully implement the project's goals.
Source: Mental Health Services in the Lakes District - Planning and Funding Newsletter - Issue 10 - March 2012