The Government is putting $100 million towards building a new acute mental health facility for Waikato, replacing an aging facility and increasing capacity by up to 20 beds.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark made the announcement in Hamilton today with a caveat – the funding is dependent on the final business case, due in early 2021.

“The current Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre is no longer fit for purpose,” Ardern said.

“It’s outdated and does not provide the right environment to support a focus on recovery and mental wellbeing for patients, despite the hard work by dedicated staff.

“A new purpose-built facility will provide a modern environment with patient- and whānau-centred spaces.”

Clark said there had been a 72 per cent increase in people seen by Waikato DHB’s mental health and addiction services over the past nine years.

“Each month, there are nearly 100 admissions to the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre, which has 53 beds.

“This new facility is expected to have capacity for an extra 10 to 20 more beds.”

The indicative business case for the new facility is expected to be complete early next year, followed by the detailed business case in early 2021.

Groundworks are expected to start in 2022, with the facility due to open in 2023.

Tackling mental health and addiction was a major focus of this year’s Budget, but the pace of work was challenged earlier this week while Ardern was taking questions at the CTU biennial conference in Wellington.

Ardern was asked by a mental health and additions nurse why the Government was taking so long to move on improving the sector.

“Just in the last month, I’ve had to resuscitate five patients from suicide attempts,” the nurse said, adding that whatever the Government was doing, it needed to happen now.

Ardern replied with a list of work the Government had invested in across the country, including investing in preventative services for young people and the dedicated suicide prevention office in Ministry of Health.

“We’re going as fast as we can.”

The Government has already committed capital spending to several projects including $79m for new specialist mental health facilities at Canterbury DHB, $8.4m for Capital and Coast DHB for intellectual disability and mental health patients, and $15 to $20m for new in-patient mental health and addiction unit at Hauora Tairāwhiti Gisborne Hospital.

NZ Herald

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