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The 2021 Budget came out this afternoon and we’ve taken a look through to see what stands out. There isn’t a lot directly for our sector, in harm reduction or treatment. Funding of some specific initiatives are outlined below.

The main gain is in general well-being measures, such as benefit levels and housing which will begin to help address some of the social determinants of health. Significant funding for changes to the health system are also included which are expected to tackle widely acknowledged health disparities.

We are now looking to the Budget in 2022 to shift funding from punishment into harm reduction, support and treatment. We will be calling for a doubling of the budget for addiction treatment and other support. We know 1-in-2 New Zealanders who would benefit from treatment cannot access it. Taking a health-based approach to drugs also means investing in a range of early intervention measures.

A welcome funding increase in Budget 2019 ensured the sustainability of some existing treatment services that were in danger of collapse and made it possible to scale up some new approaches to treatment. However, as you will know, many service providers have yet to see any improvements in funding, there are still large holes in treatment provision across the country and extremely long waiting lists in some areas.

Here are two specific mentions in Budget 2021 we could find for addictions or mental health:

* Wakeria Prison development – mental health and addiction service -$61 million over four years

This initiative provides funding to operationalise the 100-bed mental health and addiction service based at Waikeria Prison, due for completion in 2022. It also funds digital health tools providing tāne with the autonomy to access mental health and addiction support, and enabling staff to increase real-time access to information, including from external health providers. Building design changes that will provide a more therapeutic physical enviroment.

* Ola Manuia: Pacific Health and Well-being Action Plan 2020-2025 Implementation - $16 illion over four years

The initiative provides funding for the implementation of Ola Manuia: Pacific Health and Well-being Action Plan 2020-2025. The activities funded include support to Pacific health providers to implement Ola Manuia, investment into Pacific models of care, and development of Pacific community hubs.

 Other stuff that can help

Some of the other initiatives in the Budget could be expected to lead to an improvement in wellbeing of some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable people. When people’s wellbeing increases, this has a positive influence on alcohol and other drug use. These include:

  • $3.8 billion into a Housing Acceleration Fund, which will increase the supply of houses by funding the necessary services and infrastructure that currently pose barriers to development. Accelerating the pace and scale of construction will increase the supply of houses.
  • $380 million for Māori housing solutions, including building new houses in areas with high rates of Māori housing deprivation, repairs for existing housing and increasing capacity and capability for iwi, hapū and other Māori housing providers.
  • $4.7 billion in new health operational funding and up to $968 million in health capital investment. Of this funding, a total of $486 million is to reform the health and disability system so it is more equitable and sustainable for future generations and promotes whānau-centred care. This includes:
    • An extra $200 million so Pharmac can pay for more medicines, treatments and personal medical devices for sick New Zealanders.
    • $486 million to begin the transition to Health NZ and health reforms.
    • $2.7 billion additional support over four years for District Health Boards, contributing to a 45 percent increase to health funding since the Government took office in 2017.
    • Establishing the Māori Health Authority, a key part of the Government’s health reforms.
  • Tackling inequality and child poverty, by lifting weekly main benefit rates by between $32 and $55 per adult, to help low-income New Zealanders to meet their basic material needs. This will bring these rates in line with a key recommendation of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) and provide an additional boost to families with children.
  • $131.9 million over four years for prevention of family violence and sexual violence.
  • $108 million Pacific package which will continue to support Pacific communities’ wellbeing through the rebuild and recovery from COVID-19.
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