The National Budget 2023

Boost for the mental health and substance abuse fields

The government is prioritising health and addiction services, and is to commit NOK 300 million to strengthening the area.

This commitment will feature in the mental health escalation plan which is due to be set out in the spring of 2023, and the preventative and treatment reforms in terms of substance abuse which will also be outlined during the course of next year.

‘We want to strengthen and develop what is on offer, especially for child and adolescent patients facing serious and complex mental health or substance abuse issues,’ says Ingvild Kjerkol, Minister of Health and Care Services. 

Mental health a priority now

In addition to the mental health escalation plan and the preventative and treatment reforms in terms of substance abuse, mental health will also be a key feature in the public health report due for publication in the spring of 2023.

‘We cannot wait for these important publications to be completed. As a result, we are prioritising these areas in this budget,’ says Kjerkol. 

‘This is why we are proposing an increase in NOK 150 million to support and further develop new initiatives in the fields of mental health and addiction support, as well as to public health centres and school health services. An additional NOK 150 million will go to hospital to boost their 24-hour treatment capacity in specialist areas.’

Public health measures

The public health report will be published in the spring of 2023, and the creation of a society that promotes good health and prevents illness is one of the government’s overarching goals.

The government also wants to strengthen public mental health, and make information about how straightforward it can be to improve your own mental health more widely available.

Substance abuse and addiction also constitutes a significant public health issue, and the government is promising a total of NOK 4.5 million to support more robust preventative initiatives and those promoting good health in the areas of mental health and addiction.

Launching a public mental health campaign

‘Good services are important. At the same time, we must work to ensure that fewer people face mental health issues and struggle with substance abuse. The “five a day” campaign has had widespread impact in promoting good physical health. Now we are launching the “ABC For Good Mental Health” campaign,’ says the Minister of Health and Care Services. 

‘We are particularly keen to do better when it comes to preventing substance abuse, and to intervene at an earlier stage with good help and follow-up. A national programme for the prevention of substance abuse aimed at children and young people will be an important part of this initiative.

Less earmarking and more application-based

The economic situation in Norway at present presents far clearer priorities than what previous governments have had to grapple with. In order to prioritise investment in the fields of mental health and substance abuse, as well as to public health centres and school health services, it is necessary to use the available resources as effectively as possible and to prioritise where needed.

Among other things, the government is proposing to discontinue a number of allocated grants in the state budget – including the areas of mental health and substance abuse. Over time, the extended desire to earmark funds has undermined application-based grant schemes. It proposed that these earmarked grants be primarily transitioned to relevant application-based schemes.

‘We want to target our funding to ensure we meet our goal of ensuring fair distribution of resources and social equality. The allocation of public funds is a powerful tool, and this government wants to make it clear from the very beginning that we want to distribute them more fairly as we set our sights on new targets and better services,’ says Ingvild Kjerkol, Minister of Health and Care Services.

Ensuring vital help for children and young people at an early stage

In the wake of the pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of children and young people seeking out municipal mental health services and Children and Adolescents’ Psychiatric Outpatient Services (BUP).

It is very important that work takes place to prevent mental health challenges continuing into adult life. The government is therefore enhancing the funding available to children and young people to ensure that help is easily available when it is needed.

As part of this initiative, the government is proposing to provide a NOK 45 million boost to public health centres and school health services in 2023. These venues offer vital low-threshold services to children and young people – including in relation to mental health and challenges around substance abuse.

Funding for outreach work and preventing eating disorders

The government will also facilitate municipalities in establishing structures to engage in outreach work in order to identify mental health challenges and risky substance abuse among young people at an earlier stage than at present. A total of NOK 20 million has been set aside for this purpose in 2023.

Furthermore, the government announced its intention to increase support for young people struggling with eating disorders. The government is thus proposing to allocate NOK 15 million to the prevention, early discovery of and treatment of eating disorders.

Another of the government’s initiatives relates to the provision of safe, digital information aimed at children. The government will provide a boost to the work of Digi-Ung and Ungdata junior by a total of NOK 8.5 million, in addition to NOK 3 million which will be spent on further work on digital self-help tools.

Patients and users with complex mental health and substance abuse issues

The government is also prioritising those patients and healthcare service users who are the most unwell. Patients with concurrent substance abuse and mental health issues are particularly vulnerable to shortcomings in interaction and coordination in the healthcare system.

This is why the government is proposing that NOK 10 million of its investment is used to strengthen and develop models for cooperation relating to patients with particularly complex and concurrent service needs within the health service. 

Preventing overdoses

Norway continues to have high rates of overdose cases, which means that work to prevent overdoses is a priority.

The government will boost its efforts by NOK 6 million in 2023, and will focus on further developmental work to reduce deaths from overdoses through its coming preventative and treatment reforms. 

The government is also promising NOK 14 million to support a pilot programme around the medical treatment of addiction to benzodiazepines and other substances that are stimulants on the central nervous system. The intention is to acquire further knowledge in order to give more user groups access to treatment of this kind, which may also lead to a reduction in mortalities from overdoses.

Caring better for family and friends

The burden experienced by the close family and friends of people suffering from mental health and addiction issues are well known, and lead to increased sickness and socioeconomic costs arising from issues such as sickness absences.

The government wants to prevent and reduce the risk that close family and friends of people suffering from mental health and addiction issues form their own health issues by providing good assistance and follow-up.

‘Close family and friends are resources that we must take care of, and children in this position have special needs that everyone in the healthcare sector must pay heed to. This is why we are promising NOK 10 million to ensure that local municipalities are able to establish better services for this group of people,’ says Ingvild Kjerkol.