Plea for help for 'P' users, amid spike in meth-related crime
Nelson agencies are failing to curb the city's "out of control" methamphetamine problem, with a lack of immediate support for addicts fuelling the situation, a meeting in the city heard last night.
About 260 people turned out at the gathering at Nelson College for Girls, arranged by Community Connect, an organisation set up by volunteers and church members to tackle meth addiction in the region.
Police at the meeting revealed a 58 per cent hike in methamphetamine-related crime this year compared to the previous two in Tasman police district, which includes Marlborough and the West Coast.
About half of that increase was in Nelson, said Nelson Bays crime prevention manager, Senior Sergeant Scott Richardson.
He attributed the rise largely to increased police focus on fighting the drug.
"We're finding a lot more of it now when we stop people. We used to find a lot of cannabis and now it's no big surprise to find instruments for methamphetamine, and that was very uncommon a few years ago," he said.
Former meth users and relatives of addicts gave testimony of the damage caused by the drug otherwise known as "P", and some said help wasn't there when they asked for it.
One parent, Deirdre, described being thrown against a wall by her son, a "P" user, dealer and gang-member, who is due to be released from prison soon.
"Before he went away my family were living in a state of desperation ... I was a zombie, not knowing which way to turn, trying to keep my other children safe, run a house, work and keep life going as normal.
But it wasn't. I couldn't sleep ... we had police on our door most weeks looking for him, dogs, tasers and even a house search with three other children looking on.
"I went to my GP and all I got was; 'try counselling'," she told the gathering.
Alcohol and Drug Services (A and D) told her she was better off going to a friend for support, she said.
Former addict Cassandra Gibbs, 37, described becoming hooked on meth after coming to Nelson to escape a violent partner in Dunedin.
She believed long wait times for treatment in the city were exacerbating the problem.
"I went to the GP three times for a referral [to A and D]. In between times, you just keep smoking it because .... all you're looking for is that hit.
"I just wanted someone to tell me that it's going to be ok and they were going to be sticking by me."
She credited Silvia Yorke, a founding member of Community Connect, with helping her get clean.
"She didn't give up on me," Gibbs said.
Yorke called on city leaders at the meeting to help support the group's plan for a centre that would offer instant support to addicts seeking help.
She proposed teaming each addict up with a volunteer to help them stay on track.
"Clogged up agencies, despite their very best efforts, are under-resourced and unable to adequately keep up with the growing problem," said Yorke.
Community Connect was also setting up a support group for families affected by meth, at Victory Community Centre, Yorke said.
One former meth addict, speaking from behind a screen, said she only managed to beat meth after a stranger picked her up off the street.
"In Nelson, we don't have the detox Kennedy unit and Thorpe House as in Christchurch, we don't have a lovely place like He Waka Tapu who has a Maori Ora 10 week, intensive day-in day-out drug rehab programme."
Speaking at the meeting, Nelson MP Nick Smith said he supported the idea of a detox clinic.
He said he would talk to the new family support group to see how to locally channel some of the extra $80 million announced by the government 10 days ago to tackle meth.
Labour candidate Rachel Boyack said Labour would increase funding for addiction treatment agencies by not going ahead with tax cuts, and putting money back into the health budget instead.
If elected as Nelson MP, she would support bids for a detox centre.
Peter Bramley, chief executive of Nelson Marlborough Health, said the DHB would "certainly want to get behind" initiatives like Community Connect's family support group.