Some drug addicts are dying on the waiting lists for rehabilitation after the closure of 10 residential treatment centres in the past 11 years, say addiction services.

Addicts are waiting up to six months for treatment in some parts of the country.

The latest closure, of the 35-bed Kahunui centre at Opotiki two weeks ago, leaves no residential facility in the central North Island and only one remaining Kaupapa Maori residence - Dunedin's Moana House, which only takes addicts referred through the justice system.

Tim Harding, the chief executive of the former National Society of Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NSAD), now known as Care New Zealand, said the number of residential beds had more than halved in the past decade, and some addicts were losing motivation to get treatment while they waited for beds.

"It's about securing that window of opportunity. If you have to wait two or three or even four to six months, then you can lose motivation," he said.

"It is serious and it is a killer."

A spokeswoman for Narcotics Anonymous in Nelson, Janine, said addicts there were no longer allowed to go to Wellington and had to wait three to four months for treatment in Blenheim or Christchurch.

Asked about the consequences, she said: "Death. The consequence of that is sometimes death. That is the reality."

A friend of hers in Nelson who was treated at Wellington last year was not allowed to go back after a funding cut and had to wait five months to enter a programme in Christchurch.

"Luckily, she had enough support from friends and family to keep going with the work she had begun."

Auckland film-maker Carthew Neal said a friend of his who became a "P" addict in Nelson faced a three-month wait for rehabilitation. Mr Neal told her story in a documentary screened on TV2 last night.

The national manager of the Salvation Army's Bridge programme, Major Lynette Hutson, said the national committee on addictions treatment met at Wellington on Friday and expressed concern about the fallout from the Kahunui closure, coming on top of the others in recent years.

"We are concerned that any further cuts will actually destabilise the entire capacity to deliver these types of services. It's quite fragile," she said.

"We are the largest provider of alcohol and drug services and I know that we have signalled that certainly we couldn't sustain any reduction in our services."

The Salvation Army is closing its treatment centre on Rotoroa Island in the Hauraki Gulf on December 31 after 95 years.

However, Major Hutson said those beds would be replaced by two houses in Manukau and one in Glen Eden, with treatment services beginning this month in the army's existing centres in those places.

Two private treatment centres have also filled the gap - for those who can afford it. Capri Academy opened in Auckland in 1999 and treated former MP Mark Peck for alcoholism this year; and Lyttelton Unity Trust opened this year. But Capri charges $4500 a week for the first two weeks and $2000 a week after that.

Capri clinical director Tom Claunch said half of his clients were P addicts and he achieved a success rate approaching 80 per cent.

But Mr Harding said families should not have to pay to get urgent treatment for their loved ones.

* Drug and alcohol helpline, 0800 787-797 (10am-10pm) or (link below).


Bridge Haven, Upper Hutt, 1994
Miranda House, Stratford, mid-1990s
Aspell House, Plimmerton, late 1990s
Clairmont House, Timaru, late 1990s
Belmont, Nelson, late 1990s
Queen Mary, Hanmer, 2003
Queen Mary Taha Maori, 2003
NSAD, Marton, 2003
Argosy House, Auckland, 2004
Kahunui, Opotiki, Oct 25.


Rotoroa Island, Auckland, Dec 31.


The Bridge, Dunedin, 1996
Capri Academy, Auckland, 1999
Lyttelton Unity Trust, 2005
The Bridge, Manukau, Nov 7
The Bridge, Glen Eden, late November.