The treatment sector says more New Zealand families will suffer from the ravages of addiction problems if funding and accountability streams remain fragmented and inefficient.

Robert Steenhuisen, co-Chair of the National Committee for Addiction Treatment, says treatment agencies currently receive funds from multiple sources, each with different reporting requirements and accountability systems. Having to “jump through different hoops for different funders” is impacting heavily on services, and will make it impossible for the sector to meet increasing demands.

“The government expects demands on the health system will double over the next 10 years and this will also be true of the gambling drug and alcohol treatment sector.”

“We know times are tough. If it’s unrealistic to expect funding will also double, then we must look at ways of streamlining the funding model so treatment workers can get on with the job instead of wasting time and energy pleasing so many masters.”

He says treatment agencies receive various funding amounts from DHBs, the Department Corrections, and the Ministries of Social Development, Education and Health – to name a few.

“Each has its own priorities and requirements we must meet, but there’s often no co-ordination or consistency between them.”

“A person may turn up for treatment, but a lack of communication means the clinician often doesn’t know what offending has been involved. At the same time, the Criminal Justice sector may have little idea about what treatment the offender has undergone or what bearing that may have on their case.”

“Treatment workers’ time gets taken up dealing with these sorts of problems when they could be actually helping the people and families in need.”

Steenhuisen says almost a third of New Zealanders have a heavy drinker in their lives, and every person with an alcohol, drug or gambling problem impacts significantly and negatively on at least three other people’s lives.

“Everywhere you look in the media lately, there’s evidence of the massive toll drug, alcohol and gambling problems are taking on society, and we know this will only get worse. But what we hear little about are the hidden victims, the families of those struggling with addiction and especially their children – many of whom will grow up with similar problems themselves.”

“Treatment workers would be able to help more of these struggling families and make more of a difference if they spent less time dealing with disparate bureaucracies.”

“If demand for our services doubles over the next 10 years, then of course we will need more funding long-term, but if the government made a priority of simplifying and co-ordinating funding streams, that would massively improve the services we could deliver right now.”

For more information and comment:
Robert Steenhuisen, Regional Manager of Community Alcohol and Drug Services, Waitemata District Health Board – 021 954 213
Graeme Ramsey, Chief Executive Officer, Problem Gambling – 021 829 596
Phil Grady, Chief Executive Officer, Odyssey House Trust – 021 542 855