Māori groups support call to boost addiction treatment funding

By Talisa Kupenga

Thirty organisations support an open letter calling on government to double funding for addiction treatment each year starting with next year's budget.  NZ's largest Māori health organisation, Hāpai Te Hauora, says there is an urgent need in Māori communities.

Iwi and Māori health providers are among those calling for more funds and new models to stub-out substance addiction.

Hapai te Hauora General Manager for Māori Public Health Janell Dymus-Kurei says, "We know 50,000 people NZ-wide want help for drug and alcohol addiction and we know most of those people are Māori.  We know 16 percent don’t seek help because they are scared of the law."

Signatories want an extra $150mil, a drug law review to include help for synthetic cannabanoid users and a health-referral model in place of criminal sanctions.

NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell says, "We know that Māori are more affected by drugs in terms of negative drug law.  Māori are four times more likely for example to get a conviction for possession of cannabis than people who aren't Māori...Yes, there is huge harm from the drug itself, but we can't ignore the fact that drug law creates a whole lot of punishment to certain people, Māori and young people."

The organisations want government to consider the recommendations as part of decisions for budget 2019 next month.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says, "My message back is that we are working really diligently on this issue and they would have seen, I hope, some of the messages we've been sending about wanting to deal with this as a health issue."

They also want the recommendations to be considered alongside the mental health and addictions inquiry which was reported back to government last week.