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Youth Drug Agency Future Brighter

Youth Drug Agency Future Brighter

A youth drug agency providing alcohol and drug services to secondary school age children in the Wellington region, has had their services recognised and funded by the Ministry of Health.

WellTrust Executive Officer, Pauline Gardiner says that funding was secured after the Ministry received an “excellent” evaluation of WellTrust services. Mrs Gardiner said that WellTrust was under threat of closure last year, until Hon Jim Anderton intervened with interim funding.

“Jim Anderton has ensured that the funding has now been rolled over again”, says Mrs Gardiner “and parents, schools and the young people themselves, can be thankful that he actually understands the need for our services”.

Mrs Gardiner reports that WellTrust has had over 700 young people referred in the past three years, with over 300 last year alone. “We have already seen 157 in the past five months and the workload shows no signs of abating”, says Pauline Gardiner. “The worrying part of all this, is that the age is dropping so 12 and 13 year-olds are no longer a surprise. The starting age for cannabis use is certainly dropping, with about 10% starting at primary school, with our lowest recorded starting age at seven years old”.

The frequency of use is a huge concern, along with the amount used. Most use dope, at least several times weekly, if not daily and our worst recorded case, is 10 joints a day, which defies belief, Mrs Gardiner said. Maori feature disproportionately in all the statistics, she says.

Alcohol remains a ‘perennial problem’, says Mrs Gardiner. She says they have not noticed any downward trend in age or drinking patterns. “It just happens, that the type of kid we are dealing with, has always binged, has never had any trouble accessing alcohol, and has no concept that alcohol is generally an illegal drug at their age”. I suppose one might even be thankful, that alcohol is not the drug of choice, which limits the intake to once a week , or fortnight”.

“Over 36% meet mental health criteria (DSMIV) for drug dependence, which is almost unbelievable, and should send a shiver up our collective spines. No wonder the most common comment we hear from parents, is that this is their worst nightmare”, Pauline Gardiner says.

Other statistics collected are also enlightening, and some are likely to be ‘predictor’ factors, such as over 60% being cigarette smokers, and the extremely high rates of truancy amongst those referred from schools. Other stats are interesting, such as the numbers of children referred, whose parents are separated, but, Mrs Gardiner is not suggesting any causal links, to these stats, but suggests that they may contribute to difficulties faced by young people.

Mrs Gardiner says that their funding ensures that the lifeline for parents, schools and children continues and thanks all those who advocated on behalf of WellTrust, from Jim Anderton , school Principals, parents, children themselves and the many media representatives who promoted the need for WellTrust to continue their well-recognised services, to try to combat the scourge of drug use on our young people.

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