Dedicated mental health and wellbeing support in your GP clinic | Northland DHB

Dedicated mental health and wellbeing support in your GP clinic

Dedicated support for mental health and wellbeing is now available in GP clinics throughout Te Tai Tokerau.

The newly implemented roles of Health Improvement Practitioner (HIP) and Health Coach (HC) are working as part of general practice teams to deliver a new model of primary mental health and addiction care. 

Following a piloted rollout, the innovative mental health model Te Tumu Waiora has been expanded to include 18 GP clinics around the Northland region with more practices expected to be able to provide services in the coming months. In line with other Ministry of Health investments, Te Tumu Waiora aims to increase choice and access to mental health support. 

HIPs are registered mental health practitioners who work as members of the general practice team. Health Improvement Practitioners (HIP) are trained and qualified to help people from all walks of life.

They provide free brief interventions, and are well connected with local organisations to ensure that people can access the support needed to address challenges, maintain behaviour change and increase their wellbeing.

Health Coaches work alongside the HIP and general practice team to act as a partner, encouraging people to identify their own priorities for change and supporting them to find the resources, tools, and supports to meet their goals.

The Health Coach can often be out in the community facilitating walking groups, advocating for health needs, meeting with whānau or connecting people to other services. Health Improvement Practitioners and Health coaches work together to support the behavioural health needs of the general practice and the communities they serve.

“What Te Tumu Waiora allows us to do is to provide easy access to high-quality care. If you are registered with the general practice, this service is free and supports you to improve your overall health and wellbeing,” said Ian McKenzie, general manager of Mental Health and Addictions Services at Northland DHB.

Te Tumu Waiora has already seen many positive encounters where people have been supported by the HIP and Health Coach with behavioural and wellbeing needs.

One patient, a young teen, came to the doctor presenting with symptoms of vomiting and panic. After meeting the HIP, it was identified that the teen was feeling a lot of emotion in relation to her mother’s recent cancer diagnosis. Together with the HIP, they developed a set of strategies for her feelings and thoughts and guides around how she would respond to these.

After two sessions with the HIP, the mother noticed a significant change in her daughter’s mood. She was re-engaged with school, talking openly about her feelings, and had grown in “leaps and bounds” from where she had been.

Another patient, an older woman in her 80s, was referred to the Health Coach by her GP. She was thinking about downsizing and moving into a care home, but didn’t know where to start. 

The Health Coach sat down with her to get a good understanding of what her needs were. The next day, the Health Coach visited the patient in her home and brought with her information from Work & Income to help her understand her entitlements. The Health Coach even accompanied her to site visits to get a good feel for the facilities. The older woman was supported to understand her options, and felt more confident making decisions for her future.

In a collaborative effort to ensure the successful rollout of the service, Northland DHB has brought together primary health entity Mahitahi Hauora and a collection of regional NGOs to support both the HIP and HC roles.

Mahitahi Hauora Mental Health & Addictions Team Leader Maurein Betts said Te Tumu Waiora had benefited patients and staff alike at the practices that have got on board.

“It works for patients because it’s behaviour-based, non-judgemental and non-diagnostic, and because it’s quick and easy to access the service. People can usually see the HIP the same day they visit their practice – often within 10-15 minutes. And it works for practices, because it gives them more options to provide quality care while making a positive impact on GP workloads,” she said.

“Wellbeing belongs at the heart of every health service, and we are really proud to be partnering with our wonderful general practices, Mahitahi Hauora, and our excellent local NGOs to deliver the support our communities need,” said Ian.

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