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Questions and Answers on National Drug Policy

Questions and Answers National Drug Policy

What is the National Drug Policy?

The National Drug policy is an attempt to pull together state agencies' previously fragmented strategies to minimise drug-related harm into one cohesive framework. Previously, no sector or agency had overall responsibility for priority setting or co-ordination, and interventions by government agencies have not been strategically aligned.

The National Drug Policy (released June 1998) sets out a framework for intersectoral decision-making about where the greatest drug-related harms are occurring, and what the best means are for addressing those harms. Basically, it sets a single direction that everyone can move towards, and a means of ensuring they do.

Who is it aimed at?

The National Drug Policy is for all New Zealanders. Although it is written primarily for people who work in the government sector - telling them what direction the Government wants them to go in, and how to work together to make sure we get there - it also puts a stake in the ground? and says, tackling drug problems is a joint responsibility of the Government and the community as a whole. That is why the policy itself talks so much about forming partnerships and working intersectorally. It recognises that local communities need to be able to address drug-related problems at a local level.

Will it mean more money?

The National Drug Policy document does not promise new money for drug-related work because it is intended to be a fairly high-level document which sets out national goals and priorities rather than one containing specific spending promises. However, the policy does provide a framework within which current drug-related expenditure can be analysed, and for assessing the merits of new drug-related projects in the future.

At a very basic level, the policy identifies that the harm caused by drugs is a priority area for the Government. Some agencies may respond to this by allocating more money into specific programmes which seek to prevent or reduce drug-related harm. But any major initiatives which require new dollars will be considered by Cabinet through the normal Budget process.

The Minister of Health has indicated that, for example, next year?s Budget will consider drug and alcohol treatment funding levels.

How does the Policy work?

The National Drug Policy created two committees to oversee implementation of the policy.

The Ministerial Committee on Drug Policy (MCDP) meets twice a year to decide which new policy initiatives should be recommended to the Government.

An officials group, known as the Inter-Agency Committee on Drugs (IACD), monitors and reviews the policy, co-ordinates its implementation and recommends new initiatives to the MCDP. Other agencies will be invited to have input into this officials group, as appropriate. This provides a means for non-governmental organisations to be formally involved in the National Drug Policy.

What efforts are currently underway to prevent and reduce drug-related harm?

Government agencies and non-government agencies continue their efforts to prevent and reduce drug related harm, in a range of areas:

· Supply control efforts (for example, preventing illicit drugs entering the country, enforcing the law regarding illicit drugs, preventing the sale of tobacco and alcohol to minors)

· Demand reduction efforts (for example, drug education programmes in schools and the community, community development efforts such as Strengthening Families)

· Problem limitation efforts (for example, drug treatment services and the Needle and Syringe Exchange Programme).

What about new initiatives - what has the advent of the NDP meant?

Earlier this year the MCDP directed the IACD to produce a work programme on cannabis and hard drugs. This is currently being implemented and sets out a comprehensive approach for preventing and reducing drug related harm.

Initiatives in the work programme include:

· a national survey of drug use in New Zealand (released June this year) · an enhanced focus on stopping illicit drugs at the border · a review of drug education in schools · the development of guidelines on drug education for schools · identification of the gaps in drug and alcohol treatment services · a review of suspension and expulsion policies in schools · the development of Safe Dance Party Guidelines for operators of dance parties/raves · the development of health education materials for those attending dance parties · consideration of possible community development models for Maori · the development of a Police Drug Strategy · review of the Misuse of Drugs Act · banning the importation and sale of cannabis pipes and bongs (notice issued, takes effect from 1 July 2000).

This work programme is a first step only and officials continue to work on possible future initiatives as well.

What is the Government doing about treatment services for those with drug or alcohol problems?

The Government currently invests approximately $52 Million per annum on drug and alcohol treatment services. Over 30,000 people receive treatment from Health Funding Authority (HFA)-funded services each year, of which 3,200 are currently on methadone treatment programmes (see below - a further 300 places being funded).

As part of the work programme on cannabis and hard drugs, the HFA was asked by Ministers to identify current gaps in drugs and alcohol treatment services.

The preliminary report, released under the Official Information Act recently, identified an approximate funding gap of $29.4 Million per annum. However, further work on identifying these gaps, and more robust costings, are required before the Government or the HFA can make any decisions on future funding for these services.

The Government intends to consider this work in the context of next year?s Budget process.

What is being done in the short term to address gaps in treatment services?

The HFA?s National Mental Health Funding Plan 1998-2002 has, as one of its priority areas, services for children and youth. The Plan also sets out goals for improving mental health (including drug and alcohol) services available for young people. Specifically, they include:

· funding specific liaison services between specialist mental health services for children and youth, and general practitioner services, schools and Government agencies managing children and youth with mental health disorders · by July 2002, an additional 325 full time equivalent positions will be funded in child and youth mental health services.

Over the next two years, regardless of work continuing on quantifying gaps in services, the HFA is committing extra money to treatment for young people, people presenting with a dual diagnosis, and both methadone treatment and training. The HFA is also developing a National Alcohol and Drug Action Plan to be completed by June 2000.

Recent funding commitments include: · Up to $1.3 million in the South Island for alcohol and drug services targeted at young people · $630,000 in the lower half of the North Island for development and enhancement of treatment services for young people · An additional $600,000 in the present financial year on methadone, which will fund an additional 300 places · Spending of $1.1 million over 1999/2000/2001 to recruit, train and support a primary care workforce to provide methadone treatment.

How much is spent annually on drug and alcohol services and programmes?

The Government spends approximately $224 Million per annum on preventing and reducing the harm caused by cannabis, hard drugs, tobacco and alcohol.

Of this, approximately $54 Million is spent per annum on limiting the harm caused to society by drug use (problem limitation). The largest part of this money (approximately $52 Million) funds drug treatment services. Other services funded include the Needle And Syringe Exchange Programme which seeks to prevent the spread of blood-borne viruses through the provision of clean injecting equipment.

A further approximately $138 Million is spent on reducing the supply of drugs into the country and restricting young people's access to tobacco and alcohol.

Approximately $32 Million is spent on reducing the demand for drugs (for example, on drug education programmes).

ENDS

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