30 Apr 2018

Funding uncertainty for Dunedin rehab service

7:03 am on 30 April 2018

A Dunedin rehab centre with a waiting list of 142 people, most addicted to methamphetamine, will run out of money in two months.

Moana House - a drug and alcohol rehabilitation residence in Dunedin

Moana House provides rehab services to up to 21 people at a time Photo: Supplied / Moana House

Addiction treatment services say the public funding model they operate under is creating stress, fostering competition between providers and, worst of all, detracting from the work of rehabilitating addicts.

This story is part of Broken Bad, RNZ's in-depth look at New Zealand's methamphetamine problem. Read more here.

Dunedin's Moana House provides rehabilitation and reintegration for criminal offenders with a history of drug or alcohol abuse.

Programme director Claire Aitken said the service housed up to 21 men at a time, despite only having funding for 17, and the waiting list sat at 142.

With only 62 days left in the financial year Ms Aitken still had not been able to secure funding - which comes from a mix of government departments - to continue to run past July.

The Ministry of Health had rolled over its share of the money, which would fund eight people with methamphetamine addictions, but that was less than half what was required to keep running the residential facility.

"How long's a piece of string," she said when asked when she thought she would be able to confirm the service's future.

"I have been harassing everyone I can think of, every single week without fail, and nothing yet."

Financial uncertainty was a "constant hassle", she said.

"One of the biggest things now is we've had no funding increase now for 10 years from anybody, so it's more of the same."

Waikato Alcohol and Drug Community Support Trust executive director Steve King said the tight funding environment and competition between providers were making life hard for services.

Health Minister David Clark needed to act urgently to change the funding model, Mr King said.

"We have a methamphetamine problem and everybody knows it, but most people don't know to the extent that it is.

"I can tell you it is extremely serious. Methamphetamine is an epidemic going on under our very eyes."

Dr Clark told Morning Report today the government had recognised the sector was under-funded and it was an area where the government had committed to increasing funding over time.

"We recognise the need for mental health and addictions to be better supported."

He said he had visited Moana House and it provided an "outstanding" service and while he would not give any details on funding increases that may be in next month's budget, he said Moana House would get the funding it needed to get through the coming year.

Dr Clark said the funding arrangements were "unnecessarily complex" and this was something the government was also looking into.

The Drug Foundation's executive director Ross Bell speaks to the Health Committee about changing cannabis law.

Ross Bell Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the way addiction services were funded was not fit-for-purpose.

"Knowing whether you have a contract two months out before your current contract expires is nothing new," he said.

"I would hope the new government will improve the way that its ministries and [district health boards] and others do their contracting," he said.

The current government budget for alcohol and drug treatment was about $150 million.

"We would love to see another $150m on top of that," Mr Bell said.

"This government should strive to eliminate all waiting lists for treatment."