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New funding boosts maternal mental health

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New funding for MidCentral DHB’s already successful maternal mental health service will allow them to enhance the care being provided to new mothers.

​The service, which utilises a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) to coordinate mental health treatment for women from pregnancy until one year after their child is born, has received funding for an additional full time staff member and packages of care.

The service is in the process of hiring a registered nurse who will focus on assessment and care of women who are acutely unwell. They will build on existing work to ensure women experiencing an acute mental health issue within the first 12 months are supported, as well as making sure the needs of their infants and other children are being met.

The packages of care, which will be tailored to each client, involve short-term support services for those who are really struggling. This may include support workers, assistance with childcare and other services that could provide ‘wrap around’ support for the family.
CNS Karen Whiterod, who coordinates the service, is pleased with the new funding, and says that it will enhance an already successful service.

She said: “In 2014 I conducted 67 assessments for mothers, and helped coordinate secondary and primary mental health services to support them during what was a difficult time for them. This service is about getting to those who need our help at the earliest possible time, and preventing the development of any further mental health problems.

“There has long been a stigma around mental illness, and that is always going to be a challenge when it comes to helping people. The important thing is to remember that mental health is, like any other health issue, something that you should seek professional help with. I see people from all walks of life and you can’t define the kind of person who will need our service.”

The linkages with different services mean that support is available in the home, in hospital care, or even in the new acute mental respite facility at St Dominics, Feilding.

The feedback for the service has been very positive, with mothers being very thankful for the help in what can be a very stressful time. With this new funding, the service will be able to enhance their work, and provide even better care to mothers and their children.

Referrals can be made through general practices, lead maternity carers, Plunket, community agencies, or existing mental health services.

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