Public Health Association of Australia CEO Michael Moore has welcomed the government’s focus on treatment in its response to the recommendations of the ICE Taskforce.
“The PHAA congratulates the Prime Minister and Rural Health Minister, Senator Fiona Nash, for their announcement this morning and the serious focus on treatment ($254.5m of $285.2M) being funded through the Primary Health Networks,” says Moore.
“By funding treatment as a main focus of the government’s response to the issue of ICE there is a much greater likelihood of a reduction in harm associated with the use of this drug,” he says.
“For more than two decades it has been clear that expenditure on treatment provides a much better return on investment than almost any other approach.”
A comprehensive approach based on harm reduction is the most effective way of dealing with illicit drugs, Moore says.
“Australia has fared well when the approach includes supply reduction, demand reduction and harm minimisation. Demand reduction is primarily achieved through treatment and education.
“Although appropriate investment in supply reduction to reduce the level of illicit drugs is part of the solution, the current evidence indicates that the right treatment as early as possible is the most effective measure in dealing with all illicit drugs. The PHAA is also pleased to see $18.8m into further research.
“The government deserves congratulations for taking an approach that sees the funding of addiction treatment through the Primary Health Networks.
“Just recently, an announcement was made that funding of some mental health services will be achieved in the same way. The PHNs have the ability to ensure that the funding is directed appropriately, to deal with overlap of other drug dependency and to see comorbidities are dealt with in the most effective manner.”
The other advantage of using the PHNs as the conduit for the funds for treatment is that they are best placed to direct the money to where it is most needed, he says.
“The most vulnerable people in the lowest socio-economic areas are often the last to receive funding.
“The PHNs have the ability to carry out effective population health planning and to direct the funds accordingly. This may well be in rural, remote or regional settings as well as in the outer suburbs of our major cities.
“The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull and the Minister for Rural Health, Senator Fiona Nash have taken the bull by the horns and have responded quickly to the ICE Taskforce report,” Moore says.
“They have used a broad response including policing, education and treatment. What is pleasing is that they have found sensible ways to apply harm reduction approaches to this difficult and challenging problem”
“Harm minimisation must play a much greater role in the rethinking of all of our drug policies.
“For too long Australia has paid lip service to harm reduction while focusing most of the funding and effort on just the supply reduction aspect.
“This announcement marks the first steps in a sensible return to re-align funding, focus and efforts into moving away from a largely prohibitionist approach to the much more effective approach of harm minimisation.”