Annemarie is the magazines editor and regular columnist for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Rehab centre needed in Bay to cope with P 'pandemic'

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Stephen King wants to bring a rehab service to the Bay
Stephen King wants to bring a rehab service to the Bay

A former drug addict is hoping to open a rehab centre in the Bay to cope with the region's meth "pandemic."

Stephen King, who runs a drug and alcohol rehabilitation recovery house service in Waikato, is pitching to bring a similar service to the Bay of Plenty.

His comments come after a special Bay of Plenty Times Weekend report last Saturday which revealed methamphetamine use was growing. Two women who had overcome P addiction also told their stories.

Mr King, 62, is founder and director of Hamilton's Manning Street, which helps transition and re-integration of former addicts back into independent living. It also helps people awaiting admission to residential centres or considering entering recovery prepare before actually undergoing full rehabilitation.

Read more: The Big Read: Shocking stories behind Bay of Plenty's P scourge

Mr King, a former addict who said he had been clean for more than 24 years, said there was more need for these services as the methamphetamine epidemic reached what he called "pandemic levels" with dealers targeting a new breed of "middle class" users and families with money.

"They have worked out there is more money in getting people with money hooked rather than peddling it in Matata or Merivale, but we'll have them as well."

His comments follow those of Police Minister Judith Collins, who said earlier this year gangs were targeting middle-class families to get new business.

There were cases where 7th formers had been targeted and "I have mothers ringing me asking me for advice because their kids are getting meth, and many them often late 20s and into their 30s".

Mr King said the stereotype of a "gaunt addict with bad skin" did not reflect the true situation that "meth doesn't have a face... people use it and can function for a while at work, and you would not know who around you is using. It is a lot more than you think... in any workplace there are likely to be meth users.

Read more: Opinion: Meth Mess needs answers

Mr King said police were seizing more P at the border but he believed this was just a small amount of the drug meth that was getting into the country,

"It's cheap in China, ready made and ready to go. Or you can get the precursor Conac NT over the counter in China. So from overseas, meth can come in anywhere on the coastline and I'm told inside tractor and machinery engines."

Mr King said that while gangs were involved in distribution, more often it was middlemen negotiating with the Chinese.

"Your meth dealer isn't the stereotype of a gang man on a motorbike, more likely he will be a suit in an Audi, who looks like any professional. This is big business and there is a lot of money at stake and accordingly organised crime around it, people in our community. It really is everywhere, it has no socioeconomic or geographical boundaries."

More residential services were needed in the Bay and elsewhere but believed any new ones were at least a year away, if not more, he said.

"The government currently has a Bill before the House, Substance Compulsory Assessment and Treatment Act (SCAT). The purpose to assist those who "with longer term cognitive impairment and have alcohol related brain injury and/or reached an extreme severe end dependency. This is expected to be passed by the end of year.''

In response, Bay of Plenty District Health Board mental health and addiction portfolio manager Lesley Watkins said the organisation was looking at its model of care for addiction services -- particularly in the light of the Substance Abuse Compulsory Assessment Treatment Act.

''Thais will guide any service developments in this area. In common with the other four Midland DHBs, the BOPDHB already has regional contracts with a number of addiction treatment providers and any re-configuration of addiction treatment services would need to be carried out with reference to these existing arrangements."

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said rehabilitation was a crucial tool when it came to combating P.

"In regard to P dealers, I am sure they aren't fussy in terms of their clientele and that they are happy peddling their product to anyone and everyone they can."

Stephen King

-Founder and director of Hamilton's Manning Street.
-King himself is a former addict-starting off with marijuana, moving on to opiates.
-He was addicted for 12 years before his arrest for morphine possession in 1983.
-He attended Higher Ground in Auckland in 1991 , the same facility which treated Bay mum Haydee Richards who spoke out about her meth addiction in the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.
-He has clean and sober for over 24 years.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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