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16.7m for detox beds a wise social investment

16.7m for detox beds a wise social investment that will be quickly recovered

Drug and Alcohol Practitioners Association of Aotearoa New Zealand media release, 14 June 2018

The Drug and Alcohol Practitioners Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (dapaanz) says the Government is showing much-needed leadership and wisdom in allocating more than $16m to Auckland City Mission for 30 new addiction detox units.

“It’s wonderful to see our leaders responding to the evidence that treatment works and reduces the havoc, suffering and social costs associated with addiction,” says dapaanz Executive Director Sue Paton.

“Society will quickly reap the benefits because that $16.7 million will be paid back many times over in saved social costs, and more quickly than people might think.”

The units will be funded with money from the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act and Ms Paton says this is exactly the sort of thing that money should be used for.

“Thirty beds will help a lot of people, which will have enormous and positive flow-on effects for their wider families and whanau. It will reduce widespread suffering and impact positively on crime, much of which is driven by addiction. However, it is important that people can access treatment after detoxing. While detox is important it is not treatment and does not work in isolation.

“It’s important to remember that helping people overcome addiction reduces demand for drugs and that has a big impact on manufacture and supply. Hard line punitive approaches squander valuable resources because they just push crime and drug use underground, making problems worse.”

Ms Paton says a recent dapaanz survey of 665 practitioner members and people with lived experience supports the understanding that many of those experiencing addiction are affected by lifelong trauma, shame, mental health problems and fear.

She says treatment options help bring addiction out into the open, increasing public awareness and reducing the social stigma that is so often associated with it.

“People putting their hand up for help should not be made to feel dirty or worthless. They should be supported and encouraged, but that’s hard to do when there’s limited opportunities for treatment.”

But she says more detox beds is only part of the solution.

“People are different and respond to different types of treatment, so we also need to be using crime money to fund increases in other services such as counselling, prison outreach, rehabs and tikanga-based programme and peer support initiatives.

“Addiction is part of the human condition and will always be present in our communities and for our loved ones. We can squander resources trying to punish that away, or we can show the compassionate support that will help restore these people to meaningful and productive lives.

“If we focused more on that we would need to focus a whole lot less on more and bigger prisons. And the earlier we can intervene and get people the treatment, the greater the results will be in terms of resources saved and suffering avoided.”


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