Italian Mental Health Reformist Visits NZ

( With New Zealand struggling to emerge from the global economic recession further cut backs in public spending appear inevitable. It is clear that spending on health cannot be excluded from this reality.

For some time now there have been growing calls for dramatic reform of mental health services. The common mantra is that we need a greater commitment of health funding for more clinical services and inpatient beds. Yet these are the most costly components of the current system.

The Arc Group – an alliance of non government organisations from across New Zealand – are convinced that rather than needing more money for more beds, we in fact need to radically rethink what we do with the money we already have.

Spokesperson for the Arc Group, and Chief Executive of WALSH Trust, Rob Warriner said: “Through the last 40 years, services in Trieste present fundamental challenges to some of our most basic assumptions of how services should be provided”.

Professor Roberto Mezzina, a leading psychiatrist and leader of the development of mental health services in Trieste, Italy will be speaking at a series of forums across the country during the week of 6th December. Since the early 1970s, mental health services in Trieste have been guided by a strong emphasis upon social inclusion and citizenship as core values.

This has meant less reliance on acute services, on the use of restraints and on compulsory treatment. Further, easy access to services 24 hours a days, 7 days a week has a been fundamental hallmark of services in Trieste.

A report commissioned by the Arc Group further suggests that New Zealand could save up to $100 million per year through reforming mental health services based upon the values and practices that have shaped services in Trieste over the last 40 years.

“The New Zealand approach places a heavy reliance on costly clinical acute and crisis services; these consume around 25% of the total spend on mental health. The Trieste approach is to ensure supports are easily accessible in the community to avoid such a reliance.”, said Mr. Warriner “The main goal of services is to keep their few acute beds empty, apart form short stays”.

Mental health services in Trieste are renowned and envied around much of the Western world. In October, they were re-designated a WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health. Professor Mezzina was appointed to lead this initiative by the World Health Organisation.

Mr. Warriner added: “We have struggled for 15 years to try to make access to services easler. In Trieste their solution is to make services available 24/7 – something we carefully avoid in New Zealand”
“The present environment, and the potential for significant reduction in costs, demands that we seriously consider any lessons we can learn from the approach taken in Trieste”.

Note: Dr. Mezzina speaks English fluently and will happy and available to discuss the Trieste experience with New Zealand media.

For further information, please contact either:

Contact: Rob Warriner
Phone: (09) 837 5240

Contact: Kay Fletcher
Phone: (03) 377 7020

Contact: Louise Carr
Phone: (03) 470 2206

Contact: Virginia MacEwan
Phone: (04) 4 801 8500

Media Release 8 December 2010 from Arc Group.