Men­tally ill ‘stuffed’ as cen­tres close

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By BEN HEATHER

More men­tally ill peo­ple will be liv­ing on the streets of Wellington and Porirua as a fund­ing shakeup forces the clo­sure of support ser­vices, providers and health board staff have warned.

Eight men­tal health ser­vice providers will have their fund­ing with­drawn as part of Cap­i­tal & Coast Dis­trict Health Board’s over­haul of men­tal health, and most are ex­pected to close their doors next month.

Most of them pro­vide some­where for men­tally ill peo­ple to hang out dur­ing the day, and clients who spoke to Fair­fax Me­dia last week said it was likely they would prob­a­bly re­turn to the streets.

The DHB has ar­gued that its new model will be less frag­mented, with no re­duc­tion in over­all fund­ing, and will lead to bet­ter re­sults for clients. But doc­u­ments re­leased un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act show even its own men­tal health staff raised alarm bells about the cuts, warn­ing that some clients would be left ‘‘wan­der­ing the streets’’.

‘‘By cut­ting fund­ing to th­ese grass­roots com­mu­nity-led or­gan­i­sa­tions . . . we are dam­ag­ing the com­mu­nity and long- term re­la­tion­ships that are cur­rently sup­port­ing many of our most vul­ner­a­ble clients,’’ one let­ter said.

It is un­der­stood the DHB ac­knowl­edges up to 150 men­tal health clients will no longer re­ceive the same support, and talks are un­der way with agen­cies that deal with home­less­ness and se­vere de­pri­va­tion about an ex­pected surge in de­mand.

The Club House, in New­town, is one of the drop-in cen­tres that will close next month. Yes­ter­day, it was busy with clients, many of whom said they had been go­ing there reg­u­larly for decades.

Aaron Collins, who said he had schizophre­nia and de­pres­sion, has been in and out of Wellington Hos­pi­tal’s men­tal health ward but spends nearly ev­ery day he can at the Club House, play­ing darts, chess and watch­ing films.

Once the house closed, he ex­pected he would spend more time just wan­der­ing Cuba St. ‘‘They push us out of so­ci­ety and we have nowhere else to go. Here we have ca­ma­raderie.’’

Another reg­u­lar, Wayne Couch­man, has been liv­ing in a car for the past year and said he has been on the wait­ing list for so­cial hous­ing since April. ‘‘ With­out this place we are all stuffed re­ally,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t know what I’ll do, just sit in my car.’’

Wellington Com­mu­nity Law lawyer Ni­cola Dray­ton- Glesti, who rep­re­sents some Club House reg­u­lars, said the DHB’s new ap­proach could help some but was not work­ing for the most needy.

‘‘The con­se­quence is go­ing to be more peo­ple on the street, more peo­ple beg­ging and more peo­ple with nowhere else to go.’’

Richard Noble, who chairs As­pire, the char­ity that runs the Club House and Court­ney’s dropin cen­tres, said while he had ac­cepted his ser­vice would close he still had se­ri­ous con­cerns. ‘‘They [clients] need some­thing to do, some­where to go.’’

But CCDHB’s ser­vice in­te­gra­tion man­ager San­dra Wil­liams said many of the peo­ple that used the Club House and other drop-in cen­tres were not men­tal health clients. The new model was not just about ‘‘well-in­tended’’ help but would ac­tu­ally as­sist peo­ple to re­cover their in­de­pen­dence.

Wellington so­cial ser­vices, such as DCM and the Wellington City Mis­sion, were be­ing pro­vided with ex­tra re­sources for the next six months for peo­ple ex­pected to move from the Club House and other so­cial ser­vices, she said.

‘‘Ser­vices are cen­tred on the needs of the per­son and are in­di­vid­u­ally goal- fo­cused. Th­ese changes will re­sult in bet­ter out­comes for the peo­ple that need and use them.’’

Photo: FAIR­FAX

Fac­ing clo­sure: The Clu­b­room drop-in cen­tre in New­town is fac­ing clo­sure after loos­ing its fund­ing. Clients Aaron Collins, left, and Wayne Couch­man speak to Chair­man of As­pire, which runs Clu­b­room and Court­ney’s drop-in cen­tre, Richard Noble.

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