waikato-dhb.gifWaikato DHB Mental Health and Addiction Services

The nearing of the end of 2018, and a very busy year at Waikato DHB MH and A services. Alongside the well-known issues and challenges that the sector is experiencing across the country,  a number of exciting initiatives have been underway through this year – so our update is a focus on a snapshot of some of those.

Supporting recovery – a NZ first, pilot in progress  

Recovery in Hand – is a smart phone app, which has been piloted in Waikato DHB addiction services since November 2017.  Based on a US designed and tested product to support addiction recovery (ACHESS - Addiction Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System) the app has been localized to NZ context, and is known here  as “Recovery in Hand”.  This app connects people with clinical teams, their recovery community, peers and other resources 24/7, and is proven to help coping. A number of features exist as part of this product including:

  • A hot button (beacon)
  • GPS detection - potential high risk location alerts
  • Supportive resources
  • Goal setting, journaling and the ability to personalize motivations
  • Medication and appointment reminders
  • Recovery tracking and progress

Formative evaluation has found that for those who have signed up and are using the app – there is a high degree of engagement and frequency of engagement, with very little ‘drop out’. Positive feedback from service users also indicates that this product, has potential to provide supplementary support.  “The app is helpful and it is great to talk to other people going through the same thing. You are able to support each other, no matter what comes up in life. Support and help is the key to become a better person in life”.

Enhancing responsiveness

Following a joint initiative with our colleagues in the Emergency Department, a nurse practitioner, Louise Quinn has been positioned in our Emergency Department for several months. This has been a pivotal role with demonstrated success in providing additional support and expertise to the presentations of people in the emergency department. The focus of “front door” response to need is a priority for the service, and as such, 2018 has also seen the evolution of extending the crisis team response into ED in the afternoons. 

Interagency collaboration

Derek Wright, previously the Executive Director for MH and A was appointed to the Interim Chief Executive role throughout 2018, which has lent itself to an opportunity for an external secondment to the role of Interim Director, MH and A.  Wise Group, and specifically, Te Pou o te Whakaaronui kindly agreed to Cara Thomas being seconded from her substantive role in the Te Pou team to the role of Interim Director for a 12 month period from January 2018. This has been a hugely generous gift from an external NGO, in supporting the DHB in a period of change, and demonstrates innovative partnership and collaboration that is about doing things differently. 

Increased collaboration between providers has been significant throughout 2018 in an effort to explore solutions to improving outcomes for tangata whaiora. We want to thank all those who have been part of those efforts, and for their commitment to making a difference.  One example of this has included a small number of residential bed have been available through 2018 with two providers, for interim periods only, and are utilised to support active transition from inpatient, to supported residential living, to independence over a relatively short period. This has been really successful with a focus on rehabilitation, and active engagement between tangata whai ora, DHB MH and A and the respective providers with support for the initiative from strategy and funding. Two tangata whaiora have successfully completed and graduated this programme and celebrated their move to independence.


Brendon Dolman, Recovery Advisor has been the award recipient of an Open Leadership Award, Health Quality and Safety Commission.  Nominated for his leadership and commitment to the work that he does, and the people for whom he strives to make a difference, Brendon champions change, and advocates that his job “Is to make sure people get a voice”. Brendon consistently demonstrates keen interest and commitment to quality improvement opportunities in relation to all the work that he does - wanting to make a difference to individuals at a micro level, and communities at a macro level. He is involved in co-design work and projects across the organisation, and has a keen eye for quality initiatives. Brendon has been a tirelessly committed quiet champion and leader within our service, and while technically employed in a non-government organisation, partnered with Waikato DHB MH and A Services to deliver recovery advisor support. Brendon is very well respected amongst our workforce across Mental Health and Addiction services, and amongst external networks. He has been the ‘face’ of Real TimeFeedback, engaging with service users, supporting and facilitating their feedback on the service they receive, and exploring initiatives to shape improvements. He has been a core part of the seclusion reduction project team, and provides direct support to people who have experienced seclusion as part of their service journey. Waikato DHB has been fortunate to have Brendon working alongside us as part of the team”

Waikato DHB interim chief executive Derek Wright, was awarded the 2018 Leadership in eHealth NZ Award, candidates nominated based on their outstanding contribution to eHealth. Recovery in Hand is one example of the innovation in eHealth that Derek has championed.

Let’s Talk Community Engagement Hui & Creating our Futures

The Te Pae Tawhiti and Creating Our Futures Let’s Talk | Me Kõrero Tātou Engagement Hui met with 32 communities from December 2017 to July 2018 to seek their views and experiences on the provision of Mental Health and Addiction Services. A significant amount of feedback was received.  This was a huge undertaking and was an inclusive process as part of the investigation and exploration phase of change, that has never been undertaken in NZ before.  The information we have gathered is rich, the stories from our communities were at times humbling and it is a privilege to have been able to be involved in these hui.  Many of our staff participated and although at times it was challenging to hear the experiences of those who told their stories, it was a great opportunity to reflect and learn how we can improve in the future and what our services could look like.

There are clear themes from the hui feedback identifying areas our communities particularly want to see progress in.  These are:

  • Whānau | Strengthening Families
  • Hapori | Thriving Communities 
  • Whakamomori | Prevent Suicide
  • Ngā Awenga Oranga | Influencing Wellbeing Environments
  • Ngā Mõrearea | Crisis Resolution
  • Mana Motuhake | Holistic Autonomy 

The themes are being developed into a final report that includes the recommended transformational actions required to address them.

Business Case update

After lots of hard work, engagement with lots of internal and community groups, and a number of workshops with our Board I am thrilled to say we have the green light to proceed to detailed design for our inpatient facility replacement! 

This is fantastic news and is supported nationally with our business case on the priority list for capital. At this stage we will be planning for an onsite development for acute beds, subacute and outreach environments to enable people to be cared for closer to home and additional beds to meet the growing and changing prison population.

We are also looking at options for high and complex needs, children and young people and other specialist populations.  It is likely that these discussions will be with our regional colleagues.

Finally, on behalf of the team at Waikato DHB MHAS, thank you for your support in 2018, we look forward to continuing to work closely with you all in 2019 and very best wishes for a safe and happy holidays.


Vicki Aitken                                                                               Rees Tapsell
Interim Executive Director                                                        Director of Clinical Services


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