Major win for addictions in the Wellbeing Budget

Ross Bell of the Health Not Handcuffs coalition with the Prime Minister at the Budget announcement today

Today the Government released its much-anticipated Wellbeing Budget – and we at Health Not Handcuffs are feeling pretty chuffed about it! This could be a game-changing win for the movement towards treating drug use as a health issue.

Budget 2019’s top focus is mental health and addictions. It promises major investment of $1.9 billion over the next four years. Importantly, new investment will cover those who are just starting to struggle with their mental health or drug use, as well as those with more serious problems. No longer will loved ones have to wait until their problems are out of control before they can access help.

The proposed investment is comprehensive and aims at addressing root causes. There will be more money for mental health and addiction care in schools, in primary health care, in existing treatment centres, in hospital emergency rooms and in prisons.

Some of the highlights include:

  • A plan to get 5,000 people a year early support through primary care (such as GP surgeries) for alcohol and drug issues
  • Access to a range of free services that support and maintain mental wellbeing for every New Zealander who needs it, within five years.
  • $213.1 million of total DHB funding ring-fenced to enhance mental health and addiction services
  • $44 million over four years to improve existing drug addiction services
  • Nurses in schools to reach a further 5,600 students
  • $197 million for Housing First, aiming to bring 2,700 vulnerable people into permanent homes
  • $128.3 million over four years for mental health and addiction services in our Corrections system
  • $8 million over four years to improve responses for those who turn up at hospital emergency departments needing mental health support

The Wellbeing Budget is really great news for those struggling with addictions, and their whānau. It also represents a significant milestone and victory for the Health Not Handcuffs movement.

Now we just need to make sure it’s all put in place as quickly as possible. Realistically it will take a while before every doctor’s practice can include a staff member trained in mental health. We’ll need to keep the pressure on government to keep them honest and make sure the money is used as efficiently as possible. We also need to make sure enough funding goes to kaupapa Māori approaches, to reduce inequities for Māori. But in the meantime – we can celebrate this significant victory!

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