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Changes to improve mental health community respite

Published Thursday 16 Nov 2017

Improvements are being made to the management of mental health clients requiring community respite care following the review of a serious incident at a Whitby respite service.

In March, a local resident who was a client at the respite service – which is operated by non-government organisation Pathways Ltd – tried to abduct a child from her father. Several neighbours restrained the client.

Capital & Coast DHB commissioned a review of the circumstances surrounding the incident. It was carried out by independent experts, and involved DHB staff and Pathways Ltd. The child and client’s families, and neighbours involved in the incident, were included in the review.

“We and Pathways took this incident seriously and recognise its impact on the child, client, families, neighbours and staff,” said mental health, addiction and intellectual disability service general manager Nigel Fairley.

“The review found that some things could have been done better in the lead-up to the incident, and made recommendations to help us try to ensure it such an incident doesn’t happen again.”

Improvements already made include improved information-sharing so Pathways staff are better informed about clients’ needs, and having Crisis Resolution Service staff in Wellington Regional Hospital’s ED to provide faster assessment and support for people in mental health distress.

“Other recommendations are now either being scoped or implemented. We’re also working to relocate the Whitby service as the current building is not physically suitable for some of the improvements – such as having higher numbers of clinical staff.”

Further improvements being worked on include a single electronic file of client information, ensuring respite services have better access to a trained mental health nurse for at least eight hours a day, and improved training and supervision for community mental health teams.

Around one in four New Zealanders will experience mental illness in their life time. While hospital can be the best place for people with severe issues, most people’s wellbeing is better served by home-like respite environments in the community.

Respite services are a sanctuary from daily stressors with compassionate people who provide a listening ear, help with medication, and nutritious meals. They are a place for people to focus on their wellbeing and find their feet.

Media contacts: Capital & Coast DHB: Chas Te Runa – 027 230 9571