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A welcome step towards improved addiction services

Practitioner recognition a welcome step towards improved addiction services

Drug and Alcohol Practitioners Association Aotearoa New Zealand media release, 14 December 2017

The Drug and Alcohol Practitioners Association Aotearoa New Zealand (dapaanz) welcomes Hon David Clarke’s designation this week of dapaanz registered practitioners as health professionals under the Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 2017.

Dapaanz Executive Director Sue Paton says the designation process is robust and confirms that practitioners registered by dapaanz because of their expertise in treating people with addiction are equivalent to those designated under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003.

“This is great news, but not just for those who may need compulsory treatment because they have become too impaired by substance use to make their own decisions around their addiction.

“The Government’s recognition of equivalence means the way is now clear to address issues such as pay inequity that have disincentivised much of the addiction practitioner workforce in recent years.”

She said starting salaries for addiction practitioners can be below $40,000 and that even qualified and experienced practitioners earn significantly less than their peers in the health and other sectors. Practitioners working in non-government organisations, for example, earn 10-20 percent less than those working in district health boards (DHBs), even though they do similar work.

“We believe that addressing these two key areas of pay inequity – much as it has recently for caregivers – is one of the key things the Government can do to attract more people to the addiction workforce and achieve better results for those needing treatment.”

She also said that some DHBs that haven't employed addiction practitioners in the past because they are not designated under the 2003 Act will no longer have any grounds not to do so.

“This is about professionalisation. Our addiction practitioners have the same qualifications and do extremely valuable and important work with the potential to have a more positive impact than any other sector for individuals and families, and across communities.

“The Government will need to attract and retain qualified and experienced people in the addiction workforce if, as it says, it wants to improve treatment options for New Zealanders.”

Ms Paton says there is already a big pool of potential practitioners who could move to the addiction sector with very little fuss. People can become registered and get a job in an addiction service if they are qualified in an allied profession (e.g. nursing, counselling and/or social work, etc) by simply gaining a Level 7 addiction-specific qualification.

“Attracting just 100 people from the allied workforce would change the face of addiction treatment in New Zealand. We see great benefit in some funding being allocated to support allied workers wanting to make such a move.

Dapaanz looks forward to working with the Government to strengthen an effective approach to increasing addiction treatment and recovery in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

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