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Urgent need to invest in addiction practitioners and service

Today’s release of He Ara Oranga, the report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, shines a light on the health and social issues faced by people affected by addiction and the urgent need to invest in the practitioners and services that employ them,’ says the Executive Director of Dapaanz (Addiction Practitioners’ Association Aotearoa New Zealand), Sue Paton.

“We congratulate the Members of the Inquiry Panel for reaching out to the people impacted by addiction and hearing for themselves the complicated issues they face including the impact of addiction on their mental health. They would also have heard about the impact the current scarcity of well-resourced services is having on these members of our community many of whom are our most marginalized,” she says.

Right now, for example, people are dying in unprecedented numbers from the use of synthetics drugs. At least 50 people died in New Zealand in the last year and that’s just one type of drug.
This is a huge increase on previous years. If road deaths or industrial accidents had increased at the same rate it would be regarded as a public health crisis.”

“With appropriate support people with addictions can recover. It’s happening every day and many go onto become our most compassionate and valued citizens, but addiction requires a wide range of, compassionate, health orientated responses including harm reduction, early intervention, peer support and community and residential services.

That is why we, as health professionals working directly with people affected by addiction are calling on the Government to invest in the practitioners and services that support recovery instead of spending millions of dollars punishing drug users,” she says.

Aotearoa/New Zealand spends an estimated $1.8 billion annually on punishing people who use illegal drugs but only around $150 million each year on treatment.

“This makes no sense. Any increase in the amount spent on addiction treatment will save millions more in health, social, and justice costs, as well as in human costs.”

“New Zealand has well trained and experienced addiction workforce but there aren’t enough of these dedicated professionals. There is an urgent need to address inequity in renumeration to attract and retain good people from allied disciplines.”

Dapaanz believes that peer support from people in recovery from addictions of all kinds, including behavioural addictions and substance abuse, is an important part of answer.

Ms Paton says the report supports Dapaanz long held view, that a systematic shift from a punitive justice focus to a health and recovery approach is required.

“We need the Government to come up with a practical and clear strategy for the next five to ten years, that the mental health and addiction sectors and the whole community can pick up and make happen.”

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