Matua Raḵi April 2016 newsletter 

In February 2016 the Ministry of Health and the Werry Centre went on a national roadshow to promote the Supporting parents, healthy children guidelines (released in September 2015), supported by Matua Raki, Te Pou o Te Whakaaro Nui, Te Rau Matatini, Le Va and Abacus.

The roadshow was for leaders, managers, funders and planners and others who are responsible for implementing the guidelines in their organisations. It visited Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch with more than 75 participants at each venue from across the mental health and addiction sectors, child services, primary care, DHBs and NGOs. Participants were enthusiastic and it was encouraging to see the level of goodwill and passion for this work, even with the complexities and challenges currently facing the addiction and mental health sectors. It was also interesting to see the differences in readiness to implement these guidelines across regions and DHBs.

The roadshow promoted the importance of a paradigm shift in the way adult addiction and mental health services work, towards a more child and family whānau-centred practice. The Ministry of Health presented a video by Director of Mental Health Dr John Crawshaw who highlighted the need for this shift and provided a clear platform, mandate and, indeed, expectation that services start to move in the direction of family-inclusive practice. 

Brad Morgan, the director of the Australian Children of Parents with a Mental Illness initiative gave an overview of the Australian implementation journey since its initiation in 2001. He presented what they learnt and the implementation challenges they experienced, which were insightful for the New Zealand context. Brad told participants that having a national Ministry of Health guideline was incredibly useful. In Australia historically there had been little federal involvement at a national level in mental health and addiction policy. 

Dr Luci Falconer, a senior advisor from the Werry Centre and former co-ordinator of Tu Tangata Tonu at the Kari Centre (Auckland DHB), provided an overview of the Tu Tangata Tonu service set up. This service provided direct support to children and families of people experiencing mental distress, as well as consultation support to adult mental health services when working with children and families. While this service did not work directly to support addiction services and is only one example of how services may be set up to support implementation of the current guidelines, Luci was able to give participants some practical tips and advice on the pitfalls and challenges of this work as well as the huge successes this service has had. 

The final presentation of the day was given by Le Va and Te Rau Matatini and focussed on the cultural considerations in relation to the guidelines, and how the guidelines sit alongside other cultural concepts and initiatives such as whānau ora. Māori and Pasifika are over-represented in figures relating to mental distress and addiction so the message was clear that all interactions with family and whānau must be culturally appropriate. Le Va also presented their newly developed Pasifika CEP Assessment Grid which is underpinned by the metaphor Motu e va’a e taha. ‘Oku ongo katoa ia ki ke fu’u akau. When one branch breaks, the whole tree feels it and the concept of the Ra’akau (tree). They describe the assessment grid as a ‘Metaphoric, indirect, face-saving, dignity maintaining culturally responsive way of communicating’. 

Dr Crawshaw’s video and the three presentations can be viewed on the current workforce projects page of The Werry Centre’s website.  

In the final part of the workshop, the workforce development centres facilitated a feedback session to hear from participants what is needed to support the implementation of the guidelines. This information will be added to the national survey being conducted for this project that also seeks to understand the workforce development implementation requirements. This will help inform and prioritise the work of the workforce centres in the next stages of the project.

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