A pilot programme run in Northland hailed as a way of reducing the region's high methamphetamine use has been given a further $4 million of funding in the Budget.
Te Ara Oranga - an initiative between police and the Northland District Health Board - is designed to reduce meth use and refer users to rehabilitation services.
As part of Thursday's Budget the Government is providing $4m over four years for Te Ara Oranga in Northland, which provides support for up to 500 people a year addicted to meth, and their families. "We are extremely pleased to receive this news, especially for our communities, who are at the forefront of methamphetamine harm in Northland," Northland DHB chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain said.
"We acknowledge that addiction is a community issue and have proven that having a suite of services that can be tailored to each patient while also offering support for whānau makes this programme of treatment and Te Ara Oranga work."
The 2018 Te Ara Oranga evaluation report highlighted a number of interesting insights about the need for health services, the value of screening at the point of first contact, and the value of having community co-ordinators as an essential point of engagement with whānau and communities. There was also positive community reception to police being engaged as both a referral point for health services and their enforcement activities, he said.
"Police are committed to working with Northland DHB through integrating health and police activities, which is central to the success of Te Ara Oranga," said project manager, Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Varnam.
"Between August 2018 and March 30, 2019, police made 99 arrests, executed 79 search warrants, issued 29 Reports of Concern for 76 children, seized 30 firearms and referred 305 people for treatment."
Meanwhile, DHB meth-focused clinicians have been managing 803 cases since August 2017.
Te Ara Oranga's employment service Employment Works, located at Dargaville Hospital has received 116 referrals (since August 2017), assisted 48 people into new work, helped seven people at risk of losing their jobs stay in work, placed 18 people on training/unpaid work experience and eight people into unpaid voluntary work.
NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell has hailed Te Ara Oranga as one of the potential answers to Northland's and the country's high meth use.
"Previous studies ... confirm that methamphetamine use in Northland is higher than any other part of the country. It's the easy availability of meth in Northland combined with the social issues driving use - poverty, high unemployment, particularly among youth, lack of housing, etc - that are behind the high use," Bell said.
"Northland is already leading the way with Te Ara Oranga. It works and should be the gold standard for the whole country. In Northland police are referring [meth] users to health services through the DHB and it is making a difference."