I hope you all managed to have a good break over the summer holidays. I think many of us are still wishing summer would arrive as the weather has been less than optimal! Even so, I hope you got to spend some quality time with your whānau.

It is proving a busy year for us as we support two important policy areas. The first being the SA(CAT) legislation. For at least five years Matua Raki has been preparing for this, knowing there are major challenges with getting people up to speed with the new legislation and what it means as a practitioner, consumer or family member.

Like any new legislation, it will take time to set up the processes for things to work smoothly. In my view one of our challenges will be managing expectations. All of those involved in supporting someone with a serious addiction may want legislation to be used for containment – and the new legislation has many caveats around its use, including containment, as it should. Those who deal with some of the social challenges with addiction or substance use may be expecting the new legislation to enable these issues to be managed better. In reality, the sector is still challenged with meeting demand for our current community. Legislative frameworks can assist those who are seriously physically compromised, but there will be a lot of people who may need treatment and don’t meet the parameters of the new act.

Our role will be to educate everyone to ensure we manage expectations of family, friends, health professionals, police and social agencies. I was a duly authorised officer when the most recent changes to the Mental Health Act occurred. Some of my colleagues at the time saw this as an opportunity to be innovative with crisis management and come up with alternatives that aren’t about containment. Many more people were treated in their own homes with good crisis support. I hope this is embraced with the SA(CAT) legislation. If so, the opportunity can be to showcase how we can support someone with recovery in the least restrictive environment.

The second policy development is the release of the new Mental Health and Addictions Workforce Action Plan 2017-2021. This was published only a few weeks ago, and sets the direction for the next five years for workforce investment. Vanessa, Suzy and myself were involved in the development of this latest plan and have seen an opportunity to strengthen workforce and service development. Some of you may recall that Health Workforce New Zealand commissioned a plan through Allen and Clarke. This plan was consulted on widely with feedback sought from many people and organisations. This new plan takes those feedback submissions into account.
It also talks about the strategic nature of workforce development – taking into account infrastructure, learning and development, recruitment and retention, organisational development, research, evaluation and information. This is helpful as we need to understand how we invest in future services and the workforce required to take us into this future.

Te Pou will soon release some new resources on workforce planning and how to get the best out of training. One of the objectives of the new action plan is to ensure we use information well – about services, outcomes and our workforce to guide future service development. We also know we need to provide practical resources to support you in your endeavours, so this will continue. There will be cross overs in these two new areas – highlighting the need to plan for resources we need determined by population growth and service user need. Our approach at Te Pou and Matua Raki is to use evidence to guide our progress. We will be evaluating aspects of both policy areas to help us gain more understanding of what we need to support our workforce with.

I hope 2017 has started well for you. Thanks for supporting our combined work. We couldn’t do this without your partnership.

Ngā mihi nui,
Robyn Shearer