There has been a nearly 400 percent increase in unsuccessful attempts by victims of sexual abuse to obtain mental health support through ACC over the past 15 months.
In that time, survivors have tried to get help more than 10,000 times, but were turned away.
Those who manage to secure a reservation face waiting list times that have more than doubled.
ACC says it all comes down to a lack of capacity among its sensitive mental health service providers.
Services at their best: ‘It’s so heartbreaking’
Earlier this year, Wellington woman Cassandra Saunders made the difficult decision to seek mental health treatment for historical sexual abuse.
He contacted all the mental health providers and several individual therapists on the ACC accreditation list for the capital, dozens and dozens in all, and received rejection after rejection.
“[They said] ‘no, we don’t have space, no, we don’t have anything.’ It makes you want to cry because it is so heartbreaking to know that even if you want help, there is no one who can because their burden is already too great. “
Saunders said her best option seemed to be on a waiting list for an appointment up to a year away, or earlier at a different provider if she was willing to have a psychologist-in-training sit down.
He finally managed to make an appointment, although the confinement put an end to it.
Wellington Rape Crisis general manager Kyla Rayner said the lawsuit was unprecedented.
“It is the highest we have seen in the history of our organization. I have been in this position for five years and the agency itself has been above 40.”
Grim stats show survivors failing the system
Figures from ACC’s national waiting list indicate that unsuccessful attempts by survivors of sexual abuse to obtain mental health help increased by 387 percent to 4,131 in the most recent quarter from 847, 15 months ago.
Calls from sexual assault survivors to providers seeking mental health support were rejected more than 10,000 times in the past 12 months due to lack of capacity.
Many mental health support providers with sensitive claims simply don’t have room on their books to accept more people.
In fact, referrals were rejected 2.8 times more often than clients were placed on waiting lists.
Weighted average national wait times have more than doubled in one year to over 9 weeks, from 4.3 weeks.
Wait times are much longer in some places. In the three months through May, the average waiting list time spanned up to 25 weeks in Lower Hutt, 22 in Nelson and 20 in Masterton.
The size of the waiting lists has also grown. The number of places claimed by people has more than doubled, 124 percent in the last 15 months, from 656 to 1,473.
ACC Green Party spokesman Jan Logie said the delays compound the damage to survivors.
“Flashbacks, nightmares, terrors, really struggling to keep running.
“And to get to that point and then [survivors having] to make call after call after call to [suppliers and they say] ‘sorry … I can’t help’.
“It is an absolute failure of our system.”
ACC has doubled the number of therapists, but demand has skyrocketed
ACC said the numbers are a snapshot provided by services as part of a quarterly survey and do not include people who receive immediate treatment and avoid waiting lists altogether.
Only a third of providers offer a waiting list.
The numbers also represent attempts to access services, not individual cases, and people are likely to make many attempts to obtain support from various providers.
ACC said annual sensitive claims have more than doubled in five years to nearly 13,000, increasing 20 percent each year since 2014.
The number of sensitive claims therapists has more than doubled in that time through 1990, with nearly 500 onboarding in the last three years. It has also facilitated and expedited the onboarding of new therapists to providers.
Despite all this, ACC said it has been unable to close the gap between supply and demand.
“Media coverage, the #metoo movement, the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care research, social trends and awareness prevention campaigns are changing attitudes towards sexual violence, which we believe is resulting in more survivors of sexual violence feeling they can seek help. “
Rape Crisis’s Rayner said that while New Zealand has high rates of sexual and domestic abuse, attitudes have also changed.
“In some ways it is a positive thing to see that so many people are showing up because that is the reality of the prevalence of this damage in our society. The problem is that now we are trying to catch up.”
But Logie said ACC has known about the problems for years and just hasn’t taken responsibility.
College of Clinical Psychologists executive advisor Paul Skirrow said the surge in therapists promoted by ACC might not tell the whole story.
The mental cost to doctors of working with sexual assault survivors meant that many were only working part-time, he said.
“In fact, there is an ACC guide that says that you should not spend more than 50 percent of your time on this type of work. So we are talking about a number, but it may be a very small number of appointments available that could be translated for. “
ACC said all survivors were entitled to 14 hours of individual therapy and 40 hours of other support after an initial evaluation while their claim was being analyzed for possible long-term full coverage.
Those in crisis could get support from the broader mental health system, he said.
Where to get help:
Support for victims 0800 842 846
Rape crisis 0800 88 33 00
HELP Call 24/7 (Auckland): 09 623 1700, (Wellington): be 04801 6655-0
Mosaic: protecting people Peer support for men who have suffered sexual trauma and abuse: 0800 94 22 94
If it is an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.