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As part of a $14 million initiative to help offenders and their families cope with mental health challenges, four new services are now being piloted by Corrections, says Corrections Minister Louise Upston.

Under its Mental Health and Reintegration Programme, the pilots aim to better support offenders who have mental health needs in prison and the community.

“Prisoners and community-based offenders face mental health challenges at a far higher rate than the general population,” Ms Upston says.

“It is crucial that Corrections meets these mental health needs while these people are in their care. Addressing these issues lowers the barriers to their participation in industry, treatment and learning activities.”

The new services are include increased mental health support for prisoners and community-based offenders; counselling and social work support for women prisoners; support in transitioning back into communities for prisoners with severe mental needs; and wrap around support for families of offenders receiving mental health services.

Under the two-year pilot, mental health clinicians and family support workers have been appointed at 16 prisons and in four Community Corrections sites in Manukau, Hamilton, Palmerston North, and Dunedin. The results of the pilot will be evaluated.

Corrections has contracted Emerge Aotearoa, Pillars, Pact, Rural Canterbury PHO and WellSouth PHO to provide staff to work with prisoners and offenders.

Counsellors and social workers are already working at the country’s three women’s prisons to support women with mental health challenges.

“Many female prisoners struggle with issues around current and historical trauma, and family,” says Ms Upston

“By addressing their needs, we would expect a reduction in both harm and reoffending, and an improvement in their ability to cope on release.”

The Supported Living service will work with offenders with highly complex mental illness and/or cognitive impairment to access accommodation and support services on release from prison as they transition back into the community.

The Wrap Around Family/Whānau Support initiative connects children and families of prisoners and community-based offenders with mental illness with community services to improve their social, health and education outcomes.

Corrections received $14 million from the Justice Sector fund last year to boost its mental health services.

For more information on better mental health for offenders go to: http://www.corrections.govt.nz/resources/strategic_reports/investing_in_better_mental_health_for_offenders.html

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