Written submissions to the Mental Health & Addictions Inquiry close today but the Inquiry panel’s face-to-face meetings continue until early July.

By late May the Inquiry, which launched its official consultation phase on April 27, had received more than 1800 formal written submissions. The inquiry is due to report back to the Government by October 31 including on how to address widespread concerns that mental health and addiction services are at crisis point. Finance Minister Grant Robertson indicated in last month’s Budget that funding to meet any “gaps and needs” identified by the Inquiry would be addressed in future Budgets from 2019-20 onwards.

The government inquiry will stop accepting formal submissions at 5pm today and last minute submissions can be made online, emailed to mentalhealth@inquiry.govt.nz or by phoning 0800 644 678.

But inquiry panel chair Professor Ron Paterson said it understood that for some individuals and organisations the June 5 deadline might be “too tight” so it would consider emailed requests for extensions on a case by case basis.

The panel was also only midway through its series of national meetings with 11 centres still to visit and seven public ‘meet the panel’ forums scheduled with the last on July 3. Paterson said it also understood that after the forums some people may have additional thoughts they want to share and it would be happy to accept those if people sent them soon after the forum.

Paterson said there had been a great turnout in the 10 public forums held to date with more than a 1000 people attending with many of the stories shared “personal and faithful”.

“We are humbled by people’s courage and willingness to share their own struggles and suggest improvements for the future,” said Paterson. “We are also getting some very clear and constructive ideas from groups who work in the mental health and addiction area.”

Outside of the public forums the panel are meeting with mental health and addiction service clients and families, service providers, advocates, sector groups and experts with “hundreds of meetings” held since February and more scheduled up until late August.

It has also had visits to prisons in Auckland, Wellington and last week two panel members – youth representative Josiah Tualamali’i and Dean Rangihuna – visited the Youth Unit at Christchurch Men’s Prison.  Tualamali’i said afterwards that he had been moved by hearing of the success of young men at the unit including  several receiving their Duke of Edinburgh awards and completing a marathon inside the prison fence.

“We know that over 90 per cent of prisoners have mental health or addiction issues, “ said Tualamali’i. “Our Inquiry is looking at what can help transform the really difficult situation that some young people find themselves in across Aotearoa, and all of our communities with their mental health and addictions and support services around them.”

The $6 million inquiry, is being described as a “once in a generation opportunity” with the last big mental health policy inquiry back in 1995-96.

The catalyst for the inquiry was driven by  widespread concern, both from within and outside the sector, that mental health and addiction services were at crisis point and struggling to cope with the increase in demand.

The six member inquiry panel is due to report back to the Government with its recommendations no later than October 31.

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