A $16.7m funding grant to boost the number of Auckland detox beds from 20 to 30 is welcomed by drug and alcohol practitioners, but they say beds are only part of the answer.
This week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the one-off funding to help Auckland City Mission’s build its new ‘Mission HomeGround’ base, which will allow the Mission to expand its residential drug or alcohol detoxification beds. The new building is expected to be completed in two years and will house 30 studio units (15 medical detox beds and 15 social detox beds) to bring the number of government-funded detox beds in the Auckland region up from the current 20 to 30.
Sue Paton, director of the Drug and Alcohol Practitioners Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (dapaanz), said society would quickly reap the benefits as the $16.7m would be paid back “many times over” in saved social costs. The units will be funded with money from the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act and Paton said that is exactly the sort of thing the money should be used for.
“However, it is important that people can access treatment after detoxing. While detox is important, it is not treatment and does not work in isolation,” he said.
“It’s important to remember that helping people overcome addiction reduces demand for drugs and that has a big impact on manufacture and supply. Hard-line punitive approaches squander valuable resources because they just push crime and drug use underground, making problems worse.”
But she said more detox beds was only part of the solution.
“People are different and respond to different types of treatment, so we also need to be using crime money to fund increases in other services such as counselling, prison outreach, rehabs and tikanga-based programme and peer support initiatives.”
Ardern said in announcing the grant, “Huge number of Kiwi families will have experienced the terrible harm and distress that come from alcohol or drug dependency. As a community we need to do more to support people that are living with addiction.”
Health Minister Dr David Clark said the detoxification services currently provided by the Auckland City Mission were tried and true.
“They have outstanding GPs, nurse practitioners and social workers with specialist qualifications in alcohol and drug counselling, mental health, te ao Māori, elder care and violence and trauma,” he said.
The new Auckland City Mission facility will be close to Auckland City Hospital and the Pitt St Ambulance Station will allow fast and efficient medical transfers where necessary. In addition, the availability of on-site addiction medicine specialists, general practitioners, practice nurses and mental health clinicians will allow people who would otherwise present to the emergency department or require an inpatient admission to be managed in community settings.
- Detoxification involves stopping or reducing a person’s intake of the substance or substances they are addicted or dependent on over a period time, working towards abstinence.
- Social detoxification is where this process takes place in a less controlled setting, such as in the client’s own home or when additional support is required in environments such as the Auckland City Mission provides. The client is not medicated, but is assisted through the process with counselling and therapy where necessary.
- Medical detoxification is where the client is closely monitored in a medical setting and medicated where necessary to ease the process. This is more likely for people whose dependence is severe, and where the uncontrolled reduction or removal of the drug is likely to cause serious harm. This is more likely with particular drugs, such as opioids and benzodiazepines.
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