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The NZ Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell is leaving the organisation for a role at the Ministry of Health. He has led the Drug Foundation for more than 16 years.

Announcing Mr Bell’s departure, Drug Foundation Board Chairperson Tuari Potiki said while the Board accepted Mr Bell’s resignation with profound regret, it was also a time to acknowledge and celebrate the terrific contribution he has made at the Foundation.

“He has done more than anyone to champion a compassionate, evidence-based approach to reducing drug harm and treating drugs as a health issue. Ross is highly respected in this organisation, across New Zealand and internationally for his achievements over this time,” said Mr Potiki.

“We have been very fortunate to have benefited from Ross’s expertise and dedication for as long as we have. Sixteen years is an extraordinarily long tenure in such a challenging role, and the Board has accepted that this day would inevitably come.

“Ross is a person of considerable mana and he leaves to take up a new opportunity with all of the Foundation’s aroha.”

Ross Bell said that the decision to leave the Drug Foundation was one of the toughest decisions he’s ever made.

It was so hard to resign from the best job in New Zealand, and so very hard to say goodbye to the very cool team at the Drug Foundation. I am going to miss this place and the work we do deeply,” said Mr Bell.

“I am proud of what we have achieved so far. The Drug Foundation has led a profound evolution in New Zealand’s attitude and approach on drug issues, where greater compassion is shown towards people who use drugs.

“I have been so very lucky to have worked alongside a team of incredible, fearless professionals who have had many successes advancing evidence-based law, policy and service delivery changes, and who have shaped a new public discourse on drug issues.

“It has been a privilege to have the support of a fabulous Board of Trustees. Their encouragement and backing has been steadfast, especially during times when the organisation was climbing out onto the thin and tricky branches.

“I want to publicly acknowledge the love and support of my family over these years. My partner Anna and my two adorable children, who have only known their Dad working at the Drug Foundation.  Hopefully, they’ll notice fewer weekend media disruptions, less travel away from home, and no more questions from their friends about if their dad sells drugs.”

Ross will be staying with the Drug Foundation until late October when takes up the role of Manager, Public Health Capability at the Ministry of Health. The Board will open recruitment for a new Executive Director early next week.

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