COVID-19 Mental Health and Addiction update - 26 August 2021

on 26 August

Kia ora koutou,

Thank you to everyone that has been providing information and insights into our team as we work collectively to support the mental wellbeing of New Zealanders through the pandemic.

As you would have seen from Robyn’s email earlier this week, I formally stepped into the Acting Deputy Director-General role on Monday, which includes leading the team’s work underway as part of our psychosocial response to COVID-19. There is a lot of work going on in the Directorate - our three priorities are:

  • Working with mental health and addiction service providers and DHBs, especially within in the Auckland area, to understand demand and any pressure points
  • Working closely with our key mental wellbeing helplines to understand any capacity issues as they arise
  • Linking up across our psychosocial support providers and ensuring consistency and clarity of messaging.

We will continue to send updates out to the sector as we become aware of any areas that may need clarification. In this update we have provided a reminder of what mental health and addiction services should be operating under Alert Level 4, clarity on Section 70 exemptions for essential health staff, and how to provide information into our teams about your local responses to COVID-19 mental health and addiction needs.

Please also remember there is a range of self-help tools and resources listed on the Ministry’s website that we would appreciate you sharing amid your networks.

Finally, I’d like to thank Toni Gutschlag for her support as I stepped into the Acting DDG role. As you know, Toni has moved into a new role within the DHB Intensive Support Programme, focused on mental health and addiction service delivery. I know Toni’s expertise and experience will be valuable in this role, and we all look forward to continuing to work with Toni in this capacity.

Thank you all for your mahi,


Philip Grady

Acting Deputy Director-General

Mental Health and Addiction


Operating at Alert Level 4

  • Mental health and addiction services (including residential support and respite services) are essential services and must continue.
  • Inpatient and residential mental health and addiction services are operating as usual, in accordance with Public Health guidance. There may be fewer beds available at some facilities. All services will have plans for managing any potential cases of COVID-19.
  • Community mental health service appointments are available online or by phone where possible.
  • Urgent and crisis community mental health and addiction services are continuing as usual, in accordance with Public Health guidance.
  • For inpatient and residential care, visiting is not permitted except for urgent Health Care Practitioner interactions.


Reminder of Section 70 exemptions for essential health staff

Under Section 70 of the Health Act, any person or household member that has attended a location of interest, or has been categorised as a close contact, is required to isolate until they have had a negative day five COVID-19 test result.

This direction does not apply to people in roles that provide an essential health service – “a service provided for the purpose of assessing, improving, protecting, or managing the physical or mental health of individuals or groups of individuals” – as long as the following conditions are met:

  • The person is vaccinated, having received two injections of the Pfizer/Biotech COVID-19 vaccine
  • The close contact of the household member has been tested for COVID-19 following the exposure event and have received a negative result
  • The negative test result must be from a RT-PCR test
  • No household members have symptoms of COVID-19

Failure or refusal to comply with this direction is an offence under Section 70 of the Health Act 1957.


Providing intel regarding Mental Health and Addiction services

The Mental Health and Addiction Directorate has set up a psychosocial inbox to receive information about both continuity of mental health and addiction services and about psychosocial need.  This will be used to inform our psychosocial response at a national level. The inbox address is:

Please use this email address to send any information you may have about COVID psychosocial impacts and any sector responses to these.  Information you send us can include information about COVID impacts on people in our communities including people with lived experience, on our workforce and on service continuity and delivery.  Where there are adverse impacts on service delivery/continuity please also advise how these being actively managed, including innovations/adaptations and any flow-on impacts on service users.


Ministry of Health - Manatū Hauora

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