NZ Herald 24 February 2016
An “inspiring” Auckland rehabilitation centre shows why a recent shift to treat the abuse of drugs and alcohol as a health issue is warranted, Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says.
A substantial number of patients at Higher Ground Facility in Te Atatu, which Mr Dunne visited today, are being treated for methamphetamine.
“It was extraordinarily impressive and very moving. There is a highly dedicated staff, really well motivated residents, and just a sort of a buzz that everyone was there to do a job about making life better for the people who are the residents there,” Mr Dunne said.
“I’ve never used the term The War on Drugs, because I think it was always a ridiculous term, but increasingly countries that were at the forefront of the War on Drugs are saying, we’ve got to ditch that terminology, to think of this much more in a health context.”
Mr Dunne said an important step in that approach was the Prime Minister’s Methamphetamine initiative, which launched in 2009 and signalled that at the highest levels of Government there was interest in a more compassionate approach.
“It created a platform where taking a broader view has become, in many senses, from a policy perspective a much easier thing to contemplate.”
However, the shift should not be viewed as a sign the Government was moving towards official or unofficial decriminalisation of some drugs, Mr Dunne said.
“The Misuse of Drugs Act is still in place…this is about standing back and taking a total view of the pervasiveness of drugs in society, and what our response should be.”
“Compassion, innovation and proportion”
• In April New Zealand will attend a UN General Assembly session on drugs, and will argue for an emerging approach to treat drug abuse as a health issue, rather than primarily as a criminal matter.
• That approach was reflected in the 2015-2020 National Drugs Policy, recently launched by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.
• “We are shifting the focus very deliberately to seeing drug-related issues primarily as health issues, and I keep using three words in respect of the principles that underline the policy – compassion, innovation and proportion,” Mr Dunne says.
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