The recent news of Counties Manukau District Health Board’s (DHBs) mental health underspend was sadly not the disturbing revelation that it was to the public for community mental health and addiction service providers. Platform Trust has spoken out on behalf of its members for many years about the bad practices of DHBs looking to improve their bottom lines by underspending in mental health and addictions.
During the 2014 election, Platform ran a campaign that, for the first time, publicly named the DHBs that had not passed on the cost pressure funding contribution that they received from the Ministry of Health to the NGOs that they contract with. Only five of the 20 DHBs at that time had passed on this funding consistently over five years, the rest absorbing the funds. The campaign also demonstrated the haphazard and inconsistent pricing used for purchasing the same or similar services from community organisations around the country. One service type that was profiled by the 2014 campaign showed a variance in purchase price of over $33,0001.
“In all honesty, ring-fenced funding is simply an accounting exercise in smoke and mirrors,” declares Marion Blake, CEO of Platform Trust. “The intention was the right one, but the execution has been disappointing and the people responsible for monitoring this have not met their fiduciary responsibilities. Many DHBs consistently prioritise the offsetting of internal pressures over funding necessary services in the community. We call that mismanagement.”
The Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry, with recommendations due to be delivered to the Government in October of this year, will create opportunities to review the current state of the system as a whole.
“Our submission to the Inquiry calls for independent commissioning of mental health and addiction services,” notes Marion. “Our members contract with multiple government agencies, including DHBS, none of whom have a clear overview of the whole mental health and addiction support system. This predictably leaves the cavernous gaps that the Inquiry is hearing accounts of up and down the country. It’s simply untenable.”