Evolve, a Wellington youth service, is struggling to meet an unprecedented demand for their counselling and health services due to underfunding, and have been forced to turn away new clients as a result.
Manager Kirsten Smith said “we just can’t keep up with the numbers of people wanting to access support at Evolve. Particularly around mental health and on the clinical side of things, but also with our social support team around homelessness and those with not enough money to survive.”
Demand on their services has been compounded by the fact that other primary mental health services across Wellington have had funding cuts, increasing pressure on Evolve.
“What it means is that people who might have gone to other services are coming to Evolve… we’re kind of left being one of the few places now where people can access free counselling,” Smith said.
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Evolve is funded through the District Health Board and the Ministry of Social Development, but has not had a funding increase since 2009, despite their number of average patients increasing from 8000 in 2009 to 15,000 in 2015.
Smith says that Evolve could do with another full time counsellor and another full time GP to meet demand, but “we just can’t afford to.”
Evolve is limiting access for new intakes until further notice, accepting only those from specified age categories and specified categories of risk and need.
Students at Victoria or Massey are encouraged to refer to their student health or student support services, and those who are employed for more than 30 hours per week or are 24 years or over are encouraged to refer to GPs or low cost health services.
Manager Kirsten Smith added that although Evolve is under stress, “we do want the message to get out there that if people don’t feel like they’ve got another option they’ve got to let us know that and we’ll do our absolute best to be flexible.”
Smith would like to see an acknowledgement of the increased pressure on Evolve’s services, and they need more funding to be able to properly support people.
“Money spent at this end in the preventative space is going to stop people turning up in mental health services where they cost three times the amount.”
“We do just need a bloody great cash injection.”