12 May 2016

Bill to detain addicts 'needs more funds'

5:34 am on 12 May 2016

Addiction experts have told MPs a planned law change allowing drug addicts and alcoholics to be detained for up to eight weeks for treatment will not work without more funding.

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Photo: Supplied

They told a select committee yesterday that addiction services are underfunded already, and adding more patients will inevitably lead to cuts in services in other areas.

The government's planned substance addiction law would allow for the compulsory treatment of the most severe drug addicts and alcoholics who are unable to help themselves.

The Substance Addiction (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Bill would allow people with severe substance addiction to be detained for treatment for up to eight weeks, in most cases.

Treasury estimates 200 New Zealanders a year will receive compulsory treatment under the new law and its regulatory impact statement suggests this would cost $750,000 annually.

But the clinical head of addictions at Capital and Coast District Health Board, Tom Flewett, said the government already substantially underfunded addiction services in the region.

Dr Flewett said when the new compulsory treatment law comes into force existing resources may well have to be redeployed, and that would compromise patient care in other areas.

He said if the government really wanted its compulsory treatment plan for addicts to succeed it would need to fund it properly.

"I know from experience that if you put a new ... Act into place and there is no new resource then we have to reconfigure existing resource. That is a given for working in this country.

"However, to implement this bill most effectively I have no doubt that a small increase in resource would go a hell of a long way," Dr Flewett said.

Aaryn Niuapu is a spokesman for Mana Tangata Movement, which provides mental health and addiction support in the Manawatu. He said already scarce addiction resources would be pushed beyond breaking point.

He described the lack of new funding as a slap in the face to those working at the grassroots of addiction services.

"The Ministry of Health would be shooting the AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) sector in the foot if the decision was made to allocate next to nothing funding," Mr Niuapu said.

The Nova Trust provides residential care and rehabilitation programmes to try to assist people dependant on alcohol and drugs.

Its registered nurse, Helen Clyde-Smith, said Nova was effectively a revolving door for addicts in crisis.

She said the trust was not sure whether the new substance addiction bill would stop people from being able to voluntarily refer themselves.

"We have a concern that without that ... they have to meet the criteria for compulsory. These are a group that have a long history of starting not finishing, doing what they have to do to reduce the crisis and then going back to the way it was.

"That's why we are concerned, and again, we don't quite understand, does that mean they would be able to voluntarily put themselves under compulsory?"

Addiction experts also asked how viable it would be for patients detained against their will to be treated in the same premises as addicts seeking voluntary help.

They suggested secure units would be need to be established.

The compulsory treatment bill is part of the Prime Minister's tackling methamphetamine action plan.

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