Submission to Health Committee on the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission Bill
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1. Alcohol Healthwatch applauds the Government’s commitment to establish the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, with the objective of achieving better and more equitable mental health and wellbeing outcomes for all New Zealanders.
2. Alcohol Healthwatch strongly supports the explicit inclusion of the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) in the Bill. We support the Crown’s obligations under Te Tiriti being recognised in legislation. We further support the reference to achieving better and more equitable outcomes for Māori.
3. Alcohol Healthwatch strongly supports the Commission being established as an Independent Crown entity, and not an autonomous crown entity, as per the Crown Entities Act 2004. The issue of mental health and wellbeing is of such importance to every New Zealander that the Commission needs to be provided with independence from the Government of the day.
4. Alcohol Healthwatch recommends that a greater focus needs to be given to public health expertise within the Commission. Inequities in mental health and wellbeing begin early in the lifecourse, when prevention initiatives can make a substantial difference to reducing the suffering by individuals and families. Knowledge, understanding and expertise in health promotion and/or mental health promotion must be a requirement in appointing Board members.
5. Alcohol Healthwatch suggests that Board members are required to have an understanding of effective alcohol control strategies and not just addiction services. The prevention of harmful alcohol use would signal the Government’s commitment to meaningful reductions in addiction and improvements in mental health and wellbeing.
6. Alcohol Healthwatch recommends that persons who have involvement or appearance of involvement with the alcohol industry (or other industries with a commercial vested interest in the outcomes of the Commission) should be prohibited from being appointed to the Board.
7. Alcohol Healthwatch recommends that the Commission should seek views from persons diagnosed with FASD and their wider whānau.
8. Alcohol Healthwatch recommends that the Commission consider mandating the appointment of a Māori advisory committee. Mechanisms for shared decision making are however preferable.
9. Alcohol Healthwatch recommends that the Commission should be required to publicly report on progress of reducing inequities, between Māori and non-Māori, but also among other demographic groups (Pacific peoples, disabled persons, rainbow communities, and other groups that experience poorer mental health and wellbeing outcomes).
10. Alcohol Healthwatch recommends that the frequency of reporting by the Commission on the state of mental health and wellbeing in New Zealand be explicitly stated.