Community manager Mental Health & Addiction Services
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Ko Taranaki te Maunga
Ko Waiongona te awa
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Kei Waitara au e noho ana
I tipu aku au ki Waitara
Ko Ross Ekdahl ahau
I manage all community mental health and addiction teams of which there are five:
- Adult North & South Community
- Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)
- Mental Health Services for Older People (MHSOP)
- Alcohol & Other Drug (AOD)
Each team has a team leader who provides day to day leadership and direct management for staff, clinical leadership, resource management and recruitment. The team leaders report to me and it’s my role to support them in recruitment and HR management, service planning and strategic development in line with the service directorate (overall service leadership).
I work to ensure teams develop systems and processes that dovetail with one another to ensure smooth transition of people through services. I liaise with external providers in the community, and work on budgeting and planning and project management. I implement Ministry of Health directives within clinical teams, which may be change of reporting requirements or focusing targets set by the Ministry. I also provide clinical support for high and complex case management.
Tell us about your team, and your department
Community mental health and addiction services is comprised of five main teams.
CAMHS provide mental health and addiction care for children and adolescents up to the age of 17/18 years with moderate to severe mental health or behavioural disturbances. Referrals are received from a range of services including GPs, school counsellors or other social services. The team consists of psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers, family therapists and registered nurses.
Adult North & South Community teams provide mental health care for adults 18-65 years presenting with moderate to severe mental health needs. Referrals for these teams are received mainly from GPs but also from within the service. The teams consist of psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers and registered nurses.
Our MHSOP team provides care to people 65+ experiencing moderate to severe mental health or conditions of cognitive impairment such as dementia. MHSOP will also provide care for adults who may be experiencing early onset of cognitive impairment (eg dementia). This team also consists of psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers and registered nurses.
The Alcohol and Other Drug team provides counselling services for adults 18-65 year presenting with moderate to severe alcohol or substance addiction issues. Referrals are received from a range of services including GPs, other social service agencies, and criminal justice, as well as internal services. The team consists of psychiatrists, counsellors and registered nurses.
Are you working on any special projects?
Mental Health & Addiction Services are beginning a substantial refurbishment across AOD, CAMHS, MHSOP, MH Community Reception and Te Puna Waiora. We want to improve the experience for people coming into our services by creating inviting, comfortable and safe environments. Many of our community spaces have not had upgrades for years so we’re excited to be doing this piece of work.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I first started in mental health having worked in youth ministry, the plan was to get a foot in the door and then move across to surgical. Suffice to say my feet were firmly stuck in mental health and I couldn’t imagine working in another specialty. To be able to share in a person’s life at the moment they are most vulnerable and provide comfort, hope and support to see things can and will get better is a real privilege and I don’t take for granted the huge trust that person and their whanau is placing in our service in reaching out to us for help.
What inspires you to keep doing your work?
The desire to improve our services to be worthy of the trust our whānau place in us to care for them and their loved ones.
Tell us about your work background
I started my career in Te Puna Waiora as a registered nurse 2005 and a year later completed my new graduate programme and postgraduate certificate in Mental Health Nursing. In that time, I worked casually on the mental health Crisis Team and became a Duly Authorised Officer under the Mental Health Act.
After 2.5 years I stepped up to the associate clinical nurse manager (ACNM) role as a temporary position which lasted two years and became permanent in 2010. The next year I was appointed to a new position as the clinical nurse manager part time for the Crisis Team and Acute Home Based Treatment (AHBT) team. I also worked as clinical nurse specialist one day a week on acute assessments across the hospital and specialist services.
In 2014 following a department restructure I was appointed to the acute services manager position responsible for the Crisis and AHBT as well as Te Puna Waiora inpatient ward and Brixton house, a high and complex rehabilitation service. During my tenure I merged the AHBT and Crisis Team into the Assessment and Brief Care (ABC) team and oversaw the closure of Brixton house as it had become not fit for purpose.
In 2017 my role was changed to operations manager - Acute Services with expanded responsibility. I was also privileged to hold the position of Director of Area Mental Health Services (DAMHS) for an interim period in 2019-2020 until a permanent appointment was made. This statutory position appointed by the director general of health is responsible for overseeing and administrating the use of the Mental Health Act within the boundaries of the DHB.
In October 2019 as part of a hospital-wide restructure my role was disestablished, and I returned to front line clinical work in the ABC team for five months. Although not something I had planned, it was great returning to clinical practice working directly with whai ora/clients and whānau.
In April of 2020 I was fortunate to be appointed into the familiar role of ACNM in Te Puna Waiora where I worked for the next 11 months, it was interesting and enjoyable being back in the ward again after so long. The ACNM position provides the best of both worlds, clinical leadership as well as the opportunity to work directly with whai ora/clients and whānau.
What does the future hold?
You never know what the future holds, all you can do is make the best of the now and lay a foundation that will set you in good stead for the future whatever may come. I don’t have any aspirations of a more senior management role; I enjoy the blend of clinical with management.
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