The ‘health’ approach to drugs: Less than one in 100 drug users engaging with services
NZ Herald 5 January 2021
Family First Comment: If you say you want a ‘health’ approach, the coercion of the law is necessary to force that drug addiction support. As we’ve always argued…..
“Those given a health referral are sent an automated text message from Homecare Medical that says: “Kia ora from the Alcohol Drug Helpline. For advice info & support on drug use reply to this or call 0800 733 808 anytime 24×7 free to kōrero with a counsellor”. National Party health spokesman Shane Reti said a health response centred on an automated text message “strains credibility”. “A text message is not a health response, and certainly not an otherwise alternative to a conviction for use or possession of drugs. The minimum for an adequate health response as an alternative to conviction for drugs should be a requirement to at least meet with a health professional.”
Less than 1 per cent of drug users engaged with any health services in the first year of a new law hailed as a game-changer in the Government’s health approach to drugs.
A concerted effort from the Ministry of Health has led to an increase in engagement in recent months, but the low take-up is still being called “disappointing” by the Drug Foundation.
The change to the Misuse of Drugs Act – which came into force in August 2019 – raised expectations that drug users would be diverted from the criminal justice system towards health professionals.
It codified police discretion into law for prosecuting drug use/possession, but consumers shouldn’t be charged if a health approach was “more beneficial to the public interest”.
In the first year it was in force, 5484 people faced the possibility of being charged with drug/use possession as their most serious offence; 565 people were referred to health services, or just over 10 per cent.
And of those people, only 49 engaged with any health service – or less than 1 per cent of those who faced police action.
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/the-health-approach-to-drugs-less-than-one-in-100-drug-users-engaging-with-services/D2AFHDUOZJIZ5TXQ5URYAVE6TE/