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Anderton’s Response to NZ Herald Regarding P

Jim Anderton’s full response to questions posed by the NZHerald

Questions and Answers

What the P marchers want from the government:

1) Increased public awareness of the nature of P.

As Minister responsible for the government's Drug Strategy I have worked to create public awareness of "P" via drug information pamphlets delivered to homes, P Alcohol and other Drug Public forums, and the establishment of CAYADs in the worst affected areas. Budget 2005 secured funding of $2.55 million for 5 more CAYADs. These are to be added to the 22 already in place, and are in the process of being established.

In 2004 I sent out a pamphlet nationally that highlighted where people could go for information on drugs. It highlighted both the Alcohol and Drug Helpline and the website as well as the Ministry of Health website This was paid for out of my ministerial budget because I had recognised the need people had for information. My office is in the process of developing a new drug information pamphlet which will be paid for out of the same budget, and recognising the need for continued P awareness it will be given a "P" focus- how dangerous and harmful, penalities for supply and manufacture, and where to go to get the information you need for treatment and suspected P use. My office will be informed in the development of a new drug pamphlet by the Alcohol Drug Association New Zealand (ADANZ), as this organization is in the process of completing a “P” informational pamphlet.

The draft of the second National Drug Policy has been approved by Cabinet for public consultation meetings. The consultation process/plan is being considered by the Inter-Agency Committee on Drugs in early March and an independent facilitator has been selected to facillitate meetings and hui. These meetings will be seeking public input on the policy and "P" action and awareness will be part of the discussions held.

Budget 2005 also secured funding of $60,000 to ensure that the online Alcohol and Other drug Treatment Service Directory is updated and freely accessible to everyone.

The National Drug Policy Discretionary Fund allocated funding of $110,000 in 2005 for promoting the Alcohol & Drug Helpline on TV and this promotion is in the process of being developed.

2) A budget separate from the current health budget for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug users and addicts.

Drug treatment and rehabilitation of drug users and addicts funding is part of mental health funding. About $78 million is spent on alcohol and other drug treatment services. As most drug users are poly drug users there is no distinction made on the spend for P. Budgets 2003, 2004,and 2005 also secured funding for drug addiction treatment services for youth in various locations in both the North and South lslands.

I would have to be convinced that there were real advantages for a separate budget before going down that track.

A small separate National Drug Policy Discretionary Fund was established by me in 2004, to help fund valuable cross sector drug policy based initiatives which were not getting funding from other sources because they did not meet a particular agency's criteria.This money has gone to education treatment and research programmes. The total available for the fund each year is around $800,000.

3) More drug treatment programmes accessible to all within a reasonable time frame. (This reflects many people's personal experience of not being able to get onto programmes - being stuck on a waiting list. There is a perception that services are overloaded - ie too much demand for limited supply. What is the government doing to ensure people can get help swiftly?)

In the past 5 years there has been an increase of 400 full time equivalent positions, including nurses and counsellors working in the alcohol and other drug sector and an increase of over 40 beds. Could we do with more? I am sure we could as in other areas of the health sector, but any shortfall will need additional trained staff and that is where we have directed a substantial amount of funding. Once that investment is realised then waiting list times will improve. The area that I am concentrating on is the balance between community services and residential care.

4) Reinforcement of police units which respond to community complaints of illegal drug activity.

This government has announced that funding will be provided for 1000 more police over the next 3 years, and previous budgets have supplied over $40 million over 4 years for the establishment of Police clandestine lab teams, more customs officers for better drug control at our borders. In addition, legislation in Parliament at the moment is aimed at the profits of organised crime.

5) The school curriculum to include a compulsory education program on P and other drugs.

The Ministry of Education advise that schools must follow the set health and physical education curriculum which can include drug education to reflect what is happening locally. Recommend Drug Education: A Guide for Principals and Boards of Trustees. Also recommend the Drug Education for schools A Practical Guide, which was released in 2004.

6) A dedicated anonymous call centre.

This is a proposal that is being considered by officials at my office's request. However, as funding was secured last year for broadcast promotion of the Alcohol and Drug Helpline we need to assess the effectiveness of that expenditure first.

7) Families should be able to petition the courts for the involuntary admittance of a user to a drug treatment programme.

Families can already petition the courts and apply for "committal" treatment. However, because evidence shows treatment is most effective when the person voluntarily accepts it, there is very little compulsory admittance. However, the Alcoholism and Drug Addictions Act 1966, which has these provisions, is currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Health.

8) Tougher sentencing for drug users and sellers.

In reclassifying P to a class A drug 3 years ago the penalty for sellers was increased to a maximum of life imprisonment i.e. 20 years and you can't get much tougher than that. Legislation has also been passed that deems (by rebuttable presumption) a person is a supplier if they are in possession of more than 5 grams of "P" . The emphasis at the moment is on the suppliers, manufacturers and importers, i.e penalise them harshly, rather than the victim/users of drugs who we want to get into treatment and get off drugs.

9) More organised, youth-orientated activities.

The CAYADs get involved with youth orientated activities in their areas as part of their activities to reduce the demand for drugs. Other organisations also focus on youth and drugs events such as the one I am hosting at Parliament in May. It is a one day policy forum on young people and drug issues that the NZ Drug Foundation has organised. They are holding 3 events in New Zealand one each in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland.

If people in the community wish to engage in activities for youth they could contact their city council and/or the Sport and Recreation Council. Voluntary organisations can also approach the Lotteries Commission Committees for funding to organise youth activities as well.
Many church groups also organise regular youth activities.

10. More drug rehabilitation programmes in jails?

Corrections advise that although the department recognizes the link between drug use and criminal behaviour “there is no current funding for additional treatment units, but placement of additional units will be considered at a later date.

11. Reduce the number of pseudoephedrine products entering our country?

Customs advise that it is already happening. In 2004-2005 year using methods ranging from intelligence to sniffer dogs to scanners and x-rays, Customs intercepted the equivalent of 1,436,862 tablets of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine up 8 per cent on the previous year.

  • Jim Anderton's letter to the organiser of the anti-P march -

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