The Government’s announcement that Housing New Zealand will adopt a new policy when it detects methamphetamine in its rental properties has been enthusiastically welcomed by the Drug Foundation. The change is one of many drug policy priorities outlined in a new policy document released by the Drug Foundation today.
On Friday, Minister of Housing Phil Twyford told the public that Housing New Zealand’s first response will no longer be to evict tenants suspected of smoking methamphetamine in their properties. Instead, they will be offered support.
“The Housing Minister’s statements show that the new government is committed to seeing drug policy through a health lens, rather than as a matter of criminal justice”, says Ross Bell, Executive Director.
“The people we’re talking about here are already vulnerable and evicting them from a stable home only compounds any existing problems they face. This is a very welcome decision and the Labour-led government and Housing NZ need to be congratulated.”
The policy change is one recommendation included in the Drug Foundation’s new Briefing to the Incoming Parliament 2017-2020, released today. Detailed recommendations cover:
Priority 1. Keep young people in school and keep them safe.
Priority 2. Reform our laws to treat drug use as a health issue.
Priority 3. Invest more effectively in prevention, harm reduction and treatment.
Priority 4. Reduce drug harm in communities and respond to emerging challenges.
In addition, recommendations are included on important decisions due to be made in 2018.
The Drug Foundation is calling for a doubling of the treatment budget to eliminate waiting lists, and funding a full range of treatment options, including community-based and whānau-based services.
“The messages from Health Minister David Clark and the Green Party commitment to raising addiction treatment funding are very welcome. We look forward to helping put this in place,” says Mr Bell.
“The early signs are that this will be a government of transformation by joining the dots in the drugs policy space. Drug policy touches not just on health and justice, but extends to housing, education and employment too.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark have acknowledged that drug issues should be seen through a health lens. This is in line with recommendations made by the Law Commission in 2011 to remove criminal penalties for drug use and possession.
“Letting people cast their vote on cannabis legalisation in two or three years is just one part of the drug policy issues facing the government. The referendum is important, but we need action on a raft of other issues long before then,” Mr Bell said.
“It won’t be easy to fix decades of accumulated harm caused by New Zealand’s obsolete drug law. Our recommendations are aimed at all MPs and we’re inviting cross party support for the evidence-based measures we recommend.”
Drug harm experts say funding for a nasal spray that reverses opioid overdoses is critical in the face of an increasingly toxic drug supply and the emergence of powerful synthetic opioids.
Survey participants also reported that barriers to accessing services, resources and information were high.
A group of powerful synthetic opioids that were first detected in the country just a year ago may have already been linked to several deaths.