Mental health and addiction issues among older New Zealanders are often under-recognised. Each year, 1 to 2 in every 6 older people may have serious problems with mental health or alcohol consumption. Prescribing rates for mental health medications are high for older people but their access to secondary care mental health and addiction services is low.

In 2018, Te Pou o te Whakaaro Nui – a national centre of evidence-based workforce development for New Zealand’s mental health, addiction and disability sectors – began a three-year project to identify workforce development priorities and workforce initiatives to grow and develop the mental health and addiction workforce for older people.

This report summarises the first-year project findings. These were developed using a workforce planning approach to identify 10 workforce development priorities across the Ministry of Health’s five domains of workforce development. These include:

  • strengthening the workforce development infrastructure by ensuring the voices of older people and whānau are heard and prioritised in planning; ensuring service delivery to older people is recorded; and implementing a primary prevention strategy
  • improving data and information about the incidence of mental health and substance use problems among older New Zealanders and modelling workforce supply and demand
  • using learning and development activities to build workforce capabilities across sectors working with older people who have high mental health and addiction needs and whānau
  • supporting organisations to develop recruitment and retention strategies to build workforce capacity and wellbeing
  • promoting organisational development to build age-friendly cultures, leadership and networks, and increasing the range of culturally relevant services available.
The report touches on the possibility of “substantial unmet need” among older New Zealanders.
“We urgently need to grow the range and capacity of mental health and addiction services for older people and increase access to mitigate suffering and harm. Particularly given the anticipated high population growth over the next 10 years,” the report states.

Te Pou will work with the Ministry of Health, and collaborate with mental health and addiction services, the workforce centres, and representatives from other sectors like aged care to design workforce development activities to address these priorities.

The report can be found here.

 

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