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Fund to support mental wellbeing in COVID-affected communities welcomed

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A $3 million, two-year fund to support psychosocial wellbeing in Southern communities worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions has been welcomed by Southern DHB and Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing (formerly known as the Central-Lakes Mental Wellbeing Recovery Group). 

The fund is part of the Government’s Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery, and Re-Set Plan and will be administered by Southern DHB, with the guidance of Te Hau Toka. It focuses on the tourism-dependent Queenstown Lakes and Fiordland communities that were severely hit by the lockdown and travel restrictions. 

The Plan also includes a range of initiatives to support the recovery of hard-hit communities, as well as national initiatives to create a more sustainable model for tourism

Southern DHB’s Mental Health Director of Allied Health, and chair of Te Hau Toka, Adell Cox, says the psychosocial support fund means key opportunities the group has identified for supporting the community – such as extending the rollout of the Mental Health 101 programme – can now be fast tracked.

Te Hau Toka will also progress co-design work with affected communities to find the best ways of meeting their needs, and establish a process to evaluate and support further initiatives that may be proposed by the community, Cox says. 

“It has been a very tough 12 months for industries and communities that depend on travellers, and for our international residents who are far from their families and friends and may be witnessing very tragic effects of the pandemic from afar. 

“In the past year, we’ve worked closely with agencies and affected communities, and have a good sense of what’s needed to help. In particular, we see opportunities to support our business communities, new parents, migrant communities, young people and some of our older population."

Southern DHB Chief Executive Chris Fleming agrees, commenting that the fund is an acknowledgement that the impact of COVID-19 goes far beyond a physical illness. 

"It also significantly alters our sense of wellbeing and security. As a community, we all have a role in supporting each other and developing the strategies to cope in really uncertain times.” 

“It’s tremendous to have this opportunity to direct dedicated resources to areas where they are needed.” 

Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing

Te Hau Toka Southern Lakes Wellbeing was formed following the COVID lockdown in 2020 to activate the local COVID-19 Psychosocial and Mental Wellbeing Recovery Plan, aligned to the national MOH Kia Kaha, Kia Maia, Kia Ora Aotearoa. Its aim is to facilitate connections, provide trusted information, and drive actions to support the mental well-being and recovery of our communities.  

The team includes members from Southern DHB, WellSouth Primary Health Network, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Southland District Council, Central Lakes Family Services and Tahuna-Whakatipu Māori Community.

With the support of local trusts it has also appointed a Mental Wellbeing Navigator to help connect organisations with the support available and identify service gaps. 

As well as developing a roadmap of initiatives to be supported by the Government fund, Te Hau Toka will develop a framework and criteria for evaluating proposals from the community.