new auckland

Crime money to fund extra detox beds

Auckland is set to have 10 extra detoxification beds as part of the City Mission's revamped in-patient addictions unit. Teuila Fuatai reports. 

It was a homecoming of sorts for one of Jacinda Ardern’s last announcements as a pregnant Prime Minister.

Dropped off by the line of mattresses, blankets and odd furniture pieces which have become a constant fixture on Auckland’s Hobson St, she was warmly greeted by City Missioner Chris Farrelly outside the centre’s main entrance yesterday.

As the pair - accompanied by Health Minister David Clark and flanked by an entourage of advisors and media - made their way into a craft workshop in one of the back rooms, Farrelly excitedly whispered: “She used to work here, you know”.

For him, and Ardern, yesterday's funding announcement of $16.7 million to improve and expand the Mission’s addiction and detoxification services was close to the heart.

“The Prime Minister walks in here very easily because of the years she’s volunteered and worked here on a number of occasions. Even as Prime Minister, she’s worked here," Farrelly said.

"This is not a show for today - it’s been part of a long life for her to address these issues, and she knows deep down what they are. [She] was speaking from her own experience here.”

The funding boost allows for the City Mission’s current 10-bed detoxification unit to be rebuilt, and extended. The new centre, which would be part of the Mission's larger HomeGround rebuild, is due to eventually have 30 beds - integrating 10 beds from the Point Chevalier inpatient detoxification service at Pitman House. It will likely take two years to build. 

Farrelly: “The backdrop to this today is a growing drug and alcohol issue in our country that is destroying the lives of individuals and families."

“In 1982, the then-hospital board came to the Mission and said 'would you open for us New Zealand’s first social detox unit' - we had no space. The City Missioner at the time vacated his house, which was down below, and said 'use it on a temporary basis - you can fit 10 people in here'. As of today, that same place is still being used on a ‘temporary basis’.”

Also on hand for the announcement were the heads of Auckland’s three district health boards. Farrelly, Ardern and Clark emphasised the coordinated approach between health services and the City Mission under the new unit.

“I think the exciting thing about today is that we are doing this together with the district health board. It’s not like we’re doing something, and they’re doing something, and somebody else is still doing something - joining these things up is critical in what we are going to overcome,” Farrelly said.

Ardern also said that money seized from criminal offending, under the Criminal Proceeds act, would fund the revamped unit.

“It is somewhat poetic,” she said.

“This is funding that has essentially come through as a result of police activity which has seized the assets that have been related to criminal offending. Previously, it’s been used often on smaller-scale methamphetamine projects. This is the largest scale spend from the proceeds of crime. This seems to be an entirely appropriate use of that funding.”

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