Tagata Pasifika

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$6.6 million boost for mental health and addiction services for Pacific peoples

Photo: Pasifika Medical Association

Mental health and addiction amongst the Pacific community is the focus for an extra $6.6 million of Government funding to increase access to mental health support services.

Minister for Pacific Peoples and Associate Minister of Health (Pacific), Hon. Aupito William Sio, announced the extra services at an event held last week at the Fonua Ola premises in the Auckland suburb of Ōtāhuhu.

The funding is part of the Government’s $455 million programme to increase mental health and addiction services for all New Zealanders. Minister Sio said that he will continue to lobby the Government to dedicate ten percent of that funding – more than $45 million – to a targeted Pacific approach.

“Pacific peoples are more likely to experience mental distress, but they are also much less likely to reach out and seek support. The importance of “by Pacific and for Pacific” and the nature of these services cannot be overstated.

We must develop a model of care that reflects the values and philosophies of the Pacific, services that appreciate the important role of culture, social and aiga connections, our relationship with the land and environment and the crucial factor of community.”

Five Pacific health providers will deliver mental health services in four DHB areas where there is a high Pacific population. Three of those providers are Whānau Ora partners Fonua Ola (Hala Ora), Etu Pasifika and The Fono for the Ngālu Fanifo – Riding the Wave programme at Counties Manukau, Canterbury and Ashburton.

The services will be a first point of contact for people experiencing distress and will offer a range of assessment, treatment, and support options. People will access mental health support delivered by Pacific people who understand their context and needs, and who are highly skilled and well trained. The services will be underpinned by Pacific cultural and spiritual values, protocols and practices and supported by clinical interventions.

Pasifika Futures CEO, Debbie Sorensen described how she started as a psychiatric nurse 40 years ago and how she has witnessed key public health reforms around mental health for the community.

“For the first time mental health was prioritised by the Ministry of Health and for the first time the voice of the Pacific was heard. It was a quiet voice, but it was a voice, nonetheless. And for the first time the tiny little coconut shoot started to grow.”

But she said over the years since, there had been inaction and the voice of the Pacific was marginalised. She welcomes the Government’s action and commitment to offer more support for mental health services for the Pacific community.

“Our vaka has arrived. We are delighted as part of the Whānau Ora commissioning agency, to be part of the collective effort to make this happen.”

She supports Minister Sio’s push to provide more funding in the future for mental health and addiction services for the Pacific community.

“It is fantastic that the Ministry recognises that we are the best people placed to serve our communities, in our own way. Our communities are diverse, they have different needs and different ways of delivery.

“We are faith based, we are family anchored and we understand what we need. This is the beginning of a bright new future for us.”

By Pasifika Medical Association

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