“Health Minister Andrew Little has said that drug checking saves lives and he wants the service to be “across the community, all year round”.
That’s a nice intention. He’s flagged on several occasions lately that the government wants to take a public health approach to drug harm. So it was somewhat surprising to see nothing specific for drug checking or other forms of drug harm reduction in today’s budget.
KnowYourStuffNZ has been checking drugs and helping people to stay safe for seven years without public funding. To quote Chlöe Swarbrick, KnowYourStuffNZ runs “on the smell of an oily rag”. We operate thanks to people’s donations, payments from festivals, and a huge contribution of time from our volunteers.
Thanks to those contributions, we have grown 80% year-on-year and yet we’re barely touching the demand from festivals alone. We turn down far more events that we can attend. And that’s just festivals. We’d love to be providing the service outside of festivals and helping other organisations to provide that service.
But without funding, we cannot grow as rapidly as we are being asked to and that means that people will be at risk of harms that could be easily reduced.
Currently the Minister is raising expectations but placing the whole burden of delivery upon us. We’re already overloaded. We know the budget isn’t the only avenue of funding and we will continue to seek the necessary resources to meet the promises the government has made on our behalf.
Meanwhile, we ask the Minister to match his compassionate intentions with some substance.