Matua Raḵi December 2015 newsletter

Addiction Leadership Day, 5 November 2015: Ministry of Health director of mental health Dr John Crawshaw was the first to speak on the day. He told delegates about an important document that has culminated from the Children of Parents with Mental Illness and Addiction (COPMIA) work. It’s a document that will affect all those in addiction and mental health services.

Dr Crawshaw said the guideline, Supporting Parents, Healthy Children: a guideline for mental health and addiction services is about the transformational change that must occur within the mental health and addiction sectors. 

“It’s about placing children very squarely in our sights as really important in their own right. No longer can we just think about the person in front of us with their mental health or addiction problem. They have other roles in their lives and often they’re parents – and it’s really important to support them in those roles and support their children.” 

He said that, despite our training, we’ve largely forgotten to focus on the person as part of their family and that we really need to move back to that focus.

Every professional and every support worker has to get the message and play their part by valuing the person in the context of their whānau. It’s so important. We cannot just not do this."

“We need to have a strength-based approach and think about how those strengths can overcome vulnerabilities. We need to think about how to promote psychosocial resilience, particularly in young people where we have an opportunity to stop a progression early. 

“If I could do one thing in this country it would be making sure every child has a strong attachment and a valued place within a family. This makes all the difference in terms of a person’s long-term trajectory.”

He said there was also a need to promote the social networks people exist within, but from which they’ve often become divorced due to stigma.

“As we work though this we have to think very carefully about what’s culturally appropriate. It’s not just about the person and their whānau but about helping them reconnect back into a culture that can support them so they can model how their children should grow up.”

He said this can’t be done without the workforce and wanted it to be clear he was talking about embedding practice change. 

“Every professional and every support worker has to get the message and play their part by valuing the person in the context of their whānau. It’s so important. We cannot just not do this.

“Practice change is hard. That means we all have to think about how we will embed this process into the work of every person at the frontline. You as an organisation will need policies and processes that support making these changes.”

He said the Ministry expected results to take at least five years but that the essential elements could be in place within three. From there best practice could be developed. He also said there were some really good examples already operating. 

“Some of you have a head start and you should be prepared to share with those who are just commencing. We need to work together to learn what works and what doesn’t, and how best to improve services over time.”

Meanwhile, he said, the Ministry will be thinking about how to measure whether outcomes have changed, and that means considering things like key performance indicators (KPIs).

“We have to be brave enough to measure ourselves against those KPIs, and be prepared to be audited so we know we are making a difference.” 

He encouraged all in the sector to read the document and think about how they and their organisations will be working differently with family and whānau. 

“It is our responsibility and we have to step up to make it very clear we have changed our system.”

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