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Alcohol and drug services a priority

05 October 1999

Alcohol and drug services a priority.

PREVENTING and reducing the harm New Zealanders do to themselves and others when taking drugs or alcohol continues to be a priority, the Ministry of Health says.

"Recent work to identify where people might be missing out on treatment services is just part of a raft of work being done to meet the objectives defined last year in the Government's National Drug Policy and the more recent work programme on illicit drugs," spokesman Dr Bob Boyd says.

Dr Boyd, acting Director of Public Health, said preliminary work suggesting that up to $30 million more was needed to fund treatment services * was a useful first step in defining potentially unmet need.

"We are now working with the Health Funding Authority to prepare a more complete picture, complete with costings, which can then be considered by the Government as it prepares next year's Budget," he said.

"We are committed to developing and providing more and better alcohol and drug treatment services. Not only do we want to reduce the toll they take on the health of individuals, we are also aware of their costs for families and whanau, and other social costs.

"Alcohol and drug use is a major cause of premature death, preventable ill health and social harm: We have to deal with this issue if we want to improve the health status of New Zealanders. Clearly prevention is better than cure and that's where the major focus lies"

Dr Boyd said other approaches to minimising the harm caused by alcohol and drugs focussed on controlling supply, such as through enforcement of bans on sales to minors, reducing demand through educational programmes and limiting problems through initiatives such as the needle and syringe exchange programme. Spending on these strategies is approximately $224 million a year.

The Government currently spends about $52 million on drug and alcohol treatment services. The Health Funding Authority has this year allocated almost $3 million extra, which will fund an extra 26 workers, target child and youth services and fund an extra 300 places on the methadone treatment programme.

Other work includes training programmes for school counsellors, Maori and Pacific Island community workers, GPs and practice nurses.

The HFA's national mental health funding plan will see more emphasis on services for children and young people. It anticipates, for example, funding an extra 325 fulltime equivalent positions in child and youth mental health services by July 2002. Better treatment services for children and young people should lessen the likelihood of addiction in later life, Dr Boyd said.

ENDS

*National Drug Policy Work Programme - Treatment Services Gap Definition. HFA, May 1999.

Internet address: http://www.moh.govt.nz/media.html


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