NZNEP response to Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry Report

We welcome the release of the Mental Health and Addictions Inquiry’s Report this morning. The report is a comprehensive analysis of the current challenges within our mental health and addiction sector and we look forward to digesting the 219 page report in full.

With over 40 recommendations to government, the Inquiry has joined the call for a more health-based approach to drugs and drug use, removing criminal sanctions for possession, and advocates for an increase in funding for services and a move towards a system similar to that operating in Portugal.

“We thank the Inquiry team for their incredible work in producing this report and welcome the emphasis on a health-based approach. At the Needle Exchange we particularly support the recommendations to broaden the range of available services. New Zealand led the way in harm reduction in the late 1980’s with the introduction of the world’s first nationwide state sponsored needle exchange programme. It is time for us to lead again and develop innovative responses that help build an Aotearoa free of drug harms” says Kathryn Leafe, Executive Director, New Zealand Needle Exchange Programme.

We cannot address drug related harms without addressing wider social issues, and the report has included these in its consultation processes.

At the Needle Exchange, we believe we have to get real if we really want to reduce drug harms. Kathryn says: “Addressing the drug problem is more than new equipment, counselling and health services. It’s about housing, poverty, meaningful employment - it’s about social and economic reforms.”

We also welcome the emphasis on peer and user-led services. One of the unique features of the needle exchange programme is that it is a peer-based and peer-led service. Kathryn says: “The fact that those working with the service have lived experience of injecting drug use is a key factor in our success. We welcome the opportunity for people who use drugs as a community to do more and believe in the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us’".

The Needle Exchange is a supporter of the open letter to the Prime Minister, signed by over 30 health and social organisations, which you can find here.

We urge the government to act on the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry report.

Read the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry Report here.

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