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It’s easy to say that 2016 has been a horrible year. Ali, Baker, Bowie, Cohen, Prince, Wilder and our own Helen Kelly all passed. The Philippines’ President Duterte should be condemned and condemned again for his obscene approach to people who use drugs and to drug crime (the New Zealand Government needs a stronger diplomatic response to that madman). And then there’s Trump.
Yes, there is a lot to lament about this year. But there’s also much to celebrate and acknowledge.
The overdose reversal medicine Naloxone is being made more widely available.
UNGASS, while not perfect, has continued global momentum towards understanding that the world’s drug problem is first and foremost a health and human rights issue that requires responses that support rather than punish people.
Our government is taking practical health-based actions under its national drug policy. Witness most recently the new funding for methamphetamine treatment.
And we’ve certainly been busy this year. We’ve distributed 12,000 copies of this magazine, we had tens of thousands of people respond to our social media “Support. Don’t punish.” campaign, 300,000 people accessed drug information and health promotion materials on our website, we distributed 35,000 alcohol and other drug resources throughout the community, our Living Sober recovery community now has more than 4000 members, videos we produced for parents on how to talk to young people about drugs have received more than 7000 views, our other videos have been watched the equivalent of 480 hours and I clocked 100 media interviews.
What can we expect for 2017?
How will a Trump presidency affect global drug policy, and how might our own politicians react to the Brexit/Trump phenomenon? We reckon people should look objectively at the law reforms taking place in the US and be willing to apply any positive lessons back here. And all eyes will be on Canada as its government fulfils its election pledge for strict, government-run public health regulations over cannabis.
We’re expecting 2017 to be a big year for the Drug Foundation. Look out as we ramp up our efforts on drug prevention programmes in schools and across the wider education sector.
We will continue our work supporting Māori to identify new health interventions and drug law changes that would benefit them and remove the burden of the criminal justice approach to drugs. While we’ve applauded the government’s response to methamphetamine, make no mistake, there is still a lot we need to do. A strong consensus is forming, including within Police, that our collective focus must be on providing treatment to people and their families struggling with meth. We can’t arrest our way out of this problem, but we can and should do a lot more to eliminate treatment waiting lists. Let’s make it a bold vision that, in 2017, we have zero waiting lists; that we provide help right at the moment someone puts their hand up asking for it.
I look forward to working with you on these challenges.