Today Hāpai Te Hauora supported the launch of a petition urging the Prime Minister to double the investment for drug-related treatment and harm reduction initiatives in Budget 2019. This would see $150 million extra allocated for the under-resourced drug harm reduction sector.
"This is a no-brainer" says Janell Dymus-Kurei, General Manager Māori Public Health for Hāpai, "As a country we’ve tried criminalising drug use, resulting in a war on drugs where nobody is winning - our communities certainly aren’t winning. This has caused irreparable harm, which has fallen disproportionately upon whānau Māori and we’ve seen generations suffer the consequences. We need to be radical in our efforts - we need to view this as a health issue, and invest our resources accordingly"
The petition has been drafted by a coalition of public health and justice advocates and experts including Action Station, JustSpeak, The New Zealand Drug Foundation and Te Rau Matatini. It calls upon Jacinda Ardern to act urgently to prevent an escalating public health crisis.
Chief Operations Manager of Hāpai, Selah Hart states "Harm reduction has been a core philosophy of Hāpai’s for many years. We have advocated harm reduction in areas as diverse as gambling harm, tobacco and alcohol control and we also promote policies and initiatives which support harm reduction from unhealthy environments. We’ve been at the front line of this failing war for decades. We’re joining in this collective action to plead with the Prime Minister to take the compassionate and logical option now, to turn the future around for those who are vulnerable to the harms of inappropriate drug use."
The Health Not Handcuffs' Coalition emphasises the opportunity to provide a long-term solution to the synthetic cannabinoid crisis in particular stating that continuing to punish those who use synthetic cannabinoids will surely see the death toll, already at 50 in the past 18 months, continue to rise. This position is in stark contrast to media statements provided by some members of Parliament who have advocated for harsher penalties in a continuation of the already senseless and ineffective criminal justice approach to drug use.
"This is the reason we’re so concerned to make a strong stand," continues Hart "We know that some people have refused to accept the evidence presented by experts including the Law Commission in 2011 about the pointless and harmful criminalisation of people who use drugs, and it’s incumbent upon those of us who know better to stand up and be counted."
Health Not Handcuffs' is a coalition of organisations committed to a health based approach to drug use in Aotearoa New Zealand. Criminalising drug users has perpetuated harm and prevented vulnerable people from getting the support they deserve.
Our coalition includes JustSpeak, ActionStation, the New Zealand Drug Foundation, Hāpai Te Hauora, Te Rau Matatini and the Needle Exchange.
The petition can be signed here https://our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/fund-health-services-not-handcuffs-1
Hāpai Te Hauora National Communications Lead Emma Espiner interviewed Shamubeel Eaqub about the economic case for drug law reform in the New Zealand Drug Foundation publication Matters of Substance this month https://www.drugfoundation.org.nz/matters-of-substance/november-2018/costing-drug-policy-options/