No funds, no service

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A Queenstown mental health support service recently forced to close will leave a “gap” if replacement funding isn’t found.

The Next Step, a peer support group for people with mental illness like depression and anxiety, hasn’t got enough money to keep running.

Set up in June 2007, the service was originally funded by the Central Lakes Trust and Community Trust of South­land and managed by the Supporting Families Queenstown agency.

But to keep going, the service needs long-term financial help, says Supporting Families field worker Alix East.

She says it’s “disappointing” the daily service – which held a weekly peer support session at St Margaret’s Church in Frankton – isn’t able to continue.

Up to 11 people attended the weekly sessions and many Queenstowners called on The Next Step on their own accord or by referral.

“I think it’s really important for Queenstown because – for all the reasons that we talk about Queenstown – it’s very much an appearance-driven place, there’s a lot of social isolation, there’re a lot of people expected to work extremely hard and it’s not always easy to talk to friends and family about how you’re feeling,” East says.

“[The Next Step] is just a really good, down-to-earth place where people could be very honest about the way they’re feeling and get support from other people in a similar situation.

“It’s definitely left a bit of a gap.”

The service cost about $25,000 a year to run, covering a part-time group coordinator and rent.

Citing Otago District Health Board funding for similar services in Central Otago, East hopes the Southland DHB will stump up the money for The Next Step to reopen.

“We certainly won’t give up on the idea of Queenstown having a mental health support group – I think we’ve really shown the value of one. It’s just a case of getting future funding.”

She admits “it’s not ideal” having the service unavailable over the festive season but adds Queenstown has other agencies to offer help if necessary.