Renters face healthcare dilemma
A mental healthcare system dictated by geographic boundaries is putting strain on renters, an Auckland clinic patient says.
Auckland District Health Board’s ( ADHB) four mental health centres are divided into four zones, each covering a portion of Auckland central’s population.
Established in the late 1970s, the purpose was to provide clinical services to the surrounding community and therefore, closer to clients’ homes.
However, some say the format is outdated and negatively impacts renters, who are facing rising rents and uncertain leases.
ADHB Taylor Centre patient and Lifeline phone counsellor Ruth Amato said an unexpected move or eviction could result in therapy setbacks, returns to waiting lists or changes in therapists.
Particular stress was placed on the unemployed and those on a low income, as they could not be picky when choosing a new flat and had to take whatever was available out of desperation, she said.
‘‘You just take what you can get, even if it’s out of the area. You just take it because you need a roof over your head.’’
It was not uncommon for patients to lie about their living arrangements so they could continue care at their current clinic and not face the stress of having to transfer, she said.
‘‘It’s so hard because you have to be honest with your psychologist, and when you need things like the crisis assessment teams, they need your address in case they have to come and get you or call the police.’’
Amato had experienced troubles with these zones when her landlord suddenly decided to sell her rental in 2014.
At the time, she was in care with the St Lukes community mental health centre, where she had been appointed a psychologist and had started a two-year therapy programme called Balance, an initiative to help those diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.
The only place she could secure was an apartment in the city, which meant she was no longer zoned for the St Lukes facility and had to transfer to the Taylor Centre, she said.
‘‘I lost the psychologist I had just started seeing, and the therapy programme. I had to wait another three months to see another psychologist at the Taylor Centre.
‘‘It was really destabilising at the time,’’ she said.
ADHB director of mental health and addictions Anna Schofield said community mental health teams were working to reduce psychologist wait times.
When someone changed area, clinic teams underwent a handover process to ensure they received consistency in their treatment, she said.
University of Auckland mental health nursing lecturer Anthony O’Brien said changing therapist was a distressing event, as the relationship between them and an individual was crucial towards rehabilitation.
However, a good therapist would help to facilitate an easy transition once the change was likely, she said. ‘‘They would spend time exploring the person’s emotional responses to the end of the relationship, and help the person explore and rehearse coping strategies.’’
Ruth Amato says her experience of having to move house while under mental health care was distressing.