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Contemporary community care available closer to home for Wakari Hospital Ward 11 patients as new provider is announced

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The announcement of  Comcare Trust as the new service provider of intensive community support services in the Southern district is a major milestone in addressing gaps in provision of contemporary community services as identified in the national mental health inquiry, He Ara Oranga, and the 2021 Southern Time for Change - Te Hurihanga review.

He Ara Oranga and Time for Change - Te Hurihanga highlighted that people have ended up living in hospital because there hasn’t been available the necessary range of community support services with sufficient flexibility to meet their needs.

“The need for Te Whatu Ora to support people currently living in Ward 11 at Wakari Hospital in Dunedin to transition to alternative, appropriate community-based services was highlighted in the Time for Change – Te Hurihanga review, and the new services will enable greater access to and choice of support options available for people with complex needs,” says Te Whatu Ora Southern Interim District Director, Hamish Brown.

Comcare Trust who have been selected as the provider of these new services is an experienced housing and support service based in Christchurch that specialise in supporting people with complex mental health and addiction needs within community settings. They have been supporting people to live well for over 35 years.

The Southern intensive support services will include accommodation, home based support services, therapeutic support and interventions that may include, mentoring, support with family connections, social connectedness, tenancy assistance, medication support/management, assistance with activities of daily living, interventions focused on maintaining accommodation and support with developing and maintaining wellbeing plans. 

“As a registered Community Housing Provider (CHP) Comcare adheres to a range of national performance standards which are independently monitored by the Community Housing Authority, this gives us an extra level of assurance in terms of the quality of their services. As a CHP Comcare has access to other funding streams for aspects of this new service which has provided much greater value for the health dollar and means more people will be able to access these services than originally intended,” says Toni Gutschlag, Executive Director of Mental Health, Addictions and Intellectual Disability for Te Whatu Ora Southern.

The amount and types of support will flex according to client and whānau needs, and the service will proactively support clients to engage with a general practice and other essential health and social and wellbeing supports.

Each person who is supported by Comcare’s services will continue to have access to specialist staff within Te Whatu Ora such as a key worker and psychiatrist or nurse practitioner.

“Comcare and Te Whatu Ora staff will work closely together to support people currently residing in Ward 11 and other inpatient services to transition into the new services. This won't happen overnight; we will work with individuals and families to create tailored support packages for people. The service will then expand and be able to support a much wider group of people,” says Ms Gutschlag.

Martin Cole, CEO from Comcare Trust says Comcare is very much looking forward to providing the new service for the community.

“We are really looking forward to bringing our skills and experience to assist whaiora in the Southern region. We have long-standing relationships with many mental health and addictions and housing organisations and look forward to working alongside colleagues in the region.

“We have a lot of expertise and experience in providing innovative community solutions for people with mental health support needs in Canterbury, we are delighted to have the opportunity to share these with the Southern community.” 

Time for Change – Te Hurihanga is a focused year-long project led by Te Whatu Ora Southern to address health, equity, location, social and systemic issues and put people at the centre of care.

It’s part of the direction to transform Aotearoa’s mental health and addiction system over the next 10 years outlined in Kia Manawanui Aotearoa. The new health and disability reforms recognise that mental wellbeing is influenced by factors including income, housing, and employment - requiring a whole-of-government approach. It aims to support people to stay well, and have access to help that works for them, when and where they need it.

More information about the Time for Change – Te Hurihanga programme and review is available at 

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