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In politics, it’s often said, if you’re explaining, you’re losing. This was the unnecessary position Prime Minister John Key found himself in following the launch of the government’s new methamphetamine action plan.
The PM launched the plan last month to a roomful of drug sector professionals. He detailed a comprehensive range of policy and funding initiatives and interventions across law enforcement agencies, the health sector and communities. Sadly, media coverage and public debate over the following days focused on one small part of his plan – the decision to make pseudoephedrine a prescribed medicine.
The poor media coverage frustrated many, including Paul Holmes, ‘ambassador’ of methamphetamine awareness charity Stellar Trust. On a primetime current affairs programme, he chided the host for not covering the more important aspects of the plan. The Prime Minister found himself reacting to the cold and flu pill sideshow through a barrage of opinion pieces in major dailies. The Drug Foundation put out a press release saying the media had missed the main point of the plan, but discussion didn’t move beyond the pseudoephedrine decision.
That’s a real shame, because the PM’s plan is a good one, for which he and his officials must be congratulated. Police have been tasked with targeting high level offending. Assets of drug manufacturers and traffickers seized will be used to fund drug treatment and demand reduction services. The plan also builds on a foundation of community-led activities established by Jim Anderton, the previous Drug Policy Minister. But most significantly, the plan invests new money into addiction treatment services.
This really is its centrepiece – $22 million for drug treatment, representing a great first step in correcting historic underinvestment. It should be warmly welcomed by those families struggling to get help for their loved ones. Even accounting for the media’s penchant for ignoring good news, this part of the plan alone deserved much greater attention.
Another initiative the Drug Foundation is especially pleased about is the programme of work we’re leading on improving drug demand reduction information for the public. The first component of this will be a new, comprehensive online drug information service, which pulls together existing work from across the drug sector and creates new drug resources readily accessible for individuals, families and professionals. We’ll keep you fully informed as this work progresses.
NB Over 10 years the Drug Foundation has published 500 articles in the Matters of Substance magazine. Half of these stories are available here as webpages, and the rest are in PDF format only (download November 2009 copy 1.7 MB).
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