Emotions were raw under the surface at the methamphetamine “P- A Solutions Seminar” in Maungatapu recently.
Grandparents, parents, siblings, and other family members from all walks of life gathered to listen to speakers outline the key tell-tale signs of recognising if a loved one is addicted to methamphetamine, and the support strategies that can be put in place.
Reon Tuanau from Te Runanga O Ngai Te Rangi Iwi Trust welcomed about 70 people to the solutions-focused seminar, held at the Maungatapu Marae on Thursday.
The evening, organised by Brave Hearts NZ and Ngai Te Rangi, included speakers, a panel discussion, refreshments and information stands by local health and social service support agencies Get Smart Tauranga Drug & Alcohol Services, Ngai Te Rangi Iwi Addictions and Mental Health Service Peaceful Warriors and BOPDHB addiction services.
Lindsay “Red” Smith, from Brave Hearts NZ, gave advice about what to look for and where to find it, - the revelatory signs that indicate whether a family member is on drugs.
Red went on to list the behavioural traits of addictions which he says are lying, manipulation, impulsive behaviour, criminal behaviour, blame shifting and thrill seeking.
“They will test you with a wide range of emotions to get you to do what they want.
“They make promises they never keep. They act without thinking about the impact of their actions which can include anything from drunk driving to stealing something from a family member.
“The money runs out fast so they may turn to crime. Methamphetamine is not cheap. It's a hugely addictive drug, and they can quickly have $1000 a day habits. How do you get a six-figure salary? You have to do bad stuff. They lose their sense of responsibility and it's everyone else's fault. There's no accountability and they blame everyone else.
“They are constantly seeking out new experiences and new sources of adrenaline rushes. This constant desire for newness can lead to trying out new drugs.”
Red encouraged the audience to keep observant, paying attention to the behaviour of their children.
“By being vigilant you can either ease your mind because there is no evidence of drugs or find evidence of it early before addiction sets in,” says Red.
“If your child gets addicted to methamphetamine you will have a decade long battle to get your kids back. It's not until they're clean for eight years that they'll probably stay clean.”
Shanti Webby, from the Community Action on Youth & Drugs – CAYAD at the Whakaatu Whanaunga Trust in Opotiki, spoke on the process of applying to the Proceeds of Crime Fund for funds to set up a service to help people get off drugs.
“What we want in Opotiki is a facility,” says Shanti, “a place that people can go before they go into rehab, where they can try and get off. By the time an opening comes up, they've reverted back to their old behaviour. We need a house with live in support staff so they can go and stay before they go into rehab.”
The Proceeds of Crime Fund Application was legislated through the Criminal Recovery Act 2009 which allows police to seize assets and money derived from crime.
From 2009, $435 million worth of assets has been seized through NZ Police recovery units.
Applications are made to the fund in partnership with NZ Police, and has to be supported by the local Police District Commander and Ministry of Health.
In Opotiki a working group made up of representatives of several community organisations worked alongside Police through the two step process for applying for the funds to set up a treatment-based initiative to assist people with addictions.
Although initially successful with the first stage of the application, the limited time available to the organisation meant that they had to withdraw their 2017 application. They have now had more time to fully research what services are missing in their community and how to create a system for working with existing providers.
They are working on submitting a budget for the required ongoing funding to the BOPDHB, as the Proceeds for Crime Fund is a one-off fund. They have also received written support from the mayors of Kawerau, Whakatane and Opotiki District Councils.
Once all the partnerships and agreements are in place, they intend to resubmit their application to the Proceeds of Crime Fund in 2018.
“The most important thing is to know what your community needs,” says Shanti.
“Talk to all the services in your community to find what is happening already and where the gaps are. Within our own communities we will find the solutions we seek."
“When it comes to addictions, maybe it's more to do with a sense of isolation, maybe it's more to do with not having a social connection to our communities and whanau. And that can happen to people for all manner of reasons. If we can really address that sense of isolation, and show as much love as we can to our addicted whanau members, without enabling them – that may be the key to helping them get over their addictions. I sincerely believe this, that within our own community we'll find the solutions.”
Shanti would like to see Brave Hearts NZ set up in Opotiki.
A panel time followed with questions directed to panellists Shanti Webby, Red Smith, Glenn Shee who works as an Addictions and Mental Health Social Worker at Ngai Te Rangi, Erin O'Neill (Brave Hearts NZ), and Taurua Faulkner who is the CAYAD Manager at Ngai Te Rangi.
Questions included how do we help people become less isolated, how do we support them when we don't want to be around them, and how do we fast track the paperwork and waiting list for family members to get help.
“There's no real way to fast track it,” says Glenn.
“Keep them safe, support them, be with them, love them. For myself it was whanau support got me through. The biggest thing is love and time.”
Red outlined how detox and rehab are two different things.
“In a proper rehab facility you can easily detox from methamphetamine within a week,” says Red. “Alcohol takes a long time to detox out of your system. But P is fast. They need to fix your head and that's what rehab is about.”
An audience member asked how to combat the manufacturers and suppliers.
“From where I started it was because there was a hole, there was little funding for families of addicted ones,” says Red. “National have put out a programme, led by Paula Bennett.
The Deputy Prime Minister is looking at combating methamphetamine from the importing and manufacturing right through to the rehabilitation at the other end. Tackling one without having the other in place is not going to be effective. We have to stop it at both ends. This programme has just kicked off in the last 12 months.”
Silvana Moyer and Nikhil George, Alcohol and Drugs Clinicians from Get Smart Tauranga Drug and Alcohol Services.
Someone else commented on how difficult it was to find work once they had a criminal record.
“Some of us can't get jobs because we have criminal records that are stopping us.”
“What you see is that the New Zealand Drug Foundation are trying to push a policy that will make use and social supply no longer a criminal offence,” says Shanti.
“Because the damage that's done to people through going through the Justice System has a lasting impact on their life far beyond the drugs that wore off long ago.”
Lack of job prospects, low-paying and seasonal jobs were also discussed as possible drivers for people turning to selling drugs as a way to support their families.
As the evening progressed, it became more clear that the general consensus was that the P epidemic is something that a whole community needs to work together to combat.
An audience member summed it up.
“It sits on everyone's shoulders to be accountable for what's going on in their community with their families. We're all rowing in this waka together. Everyone's got a responsibility, not just police.”
He toa takitahi, engari, he toa taikitini.
Leadership doesn't come by way of one, but by way of many.
To contact Brave Hearts NZ phone 0508 BRAVEHEARTS (0508 272834)