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Gambling and addiction transition must be well-managed

Gambling and addiction services transitioning must be well-managed

National Committee for Addiction Treatment media release 4 April 2014

The National Committee for Addiction Treatment (NCAT) is warning recent changes to the way gambling and addiction treatment will be provided in New Zealand could have profound effects upon the sector workforce and, more importantly, the many New Zealanders who use and need those services.

NCAT co-Chair Vanessa Caldwell (also National Manager of Matua Raki – the national addiction workforce development centre) says the impact could be huge and very damaging if not handled with extreme care.

“When you’re talking about transferring services from one major treatment provider like the Problem Gambling Foundation to another one like the Salvation Army – or consolidating various helplines into one – the implications for the workforce are potentially enormous,” Ms Caldwell said.

“If we don't manage that transition well we could lose workers, and a lot of people who use and desperately need our services could fall through the cracks. The impact on those people (and their families and whanau) could be quite tragic.”

There are currently around 1500 people working in addiction treatment in New Zealand, and this includes services for problem gambling along with alcohol and other drugs. Together they work with more than 45,000 New Zealanders seeking help.

“This is a pretty small workforce and our workers are quite specialised and can take three years or more to train. To lose workers because of the upheavals of the transitioning process could set us back significantly at a time when demand for services is already bordering on the unmanageable.”

Health Workforce New Zealand predicts demand for addiction treatment services will double by 2020 while funding to the treatment sector will increase by just 30-40 percent in that time.

The latest available figures show that around 50,000 New Zealanders each year seek help for addiction problems (including gambling) and are unable to receive it because demands are already stretched.

“We know there’s not a lot of money around,” Ms Caldwell says, “and we fully support efforts to find the most cost-effective ways of providing the best services. However, it can't be stressed enough how important it is that no services are dropped and that no money leaves the sector as a result of these changes.”

NCAT is the national voice of the addiction treatment sector. NCAT is a group of service leaders, educators, representative groups and elected individuals who provide leadership to the alcohol and other drug (AOD) and problem gambling treatment sectors and their stakeholders.

See www.ncat.org.nz.

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