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13 December 2018: Lifewise supports the Government’s response to synthetic drug deaths. Today’s announcement strikes a balance between giving law enforcement the tools they need to target criminal networks, and changing drug law to make it easier for people to access help when they need it.

“We welcome the actions by the government to establish a fund to support rapid community health and social service responses,” says Moira Lawler, Lifewise CE. “This can’t have come sooner. It will give people who are currently excluded — because of poor funding — access to the help and services they need.”

“By removing the barrier of fear often associated with drug addiction, we can start to take away the narrow lens that considers substance abuse in isolation. We can start to approach it with services that wrap around our clients and consider what will best suit someone’s entire physical, mental and emotional well-being.”

“We need to really listen to people who are living with addiction and get their sense of what’s most likely to be effective,” says Lawler. 

Together with Auckland City Mission Lifewise runs the Auckland City Centre Housing First program; using a wrap-around service approach they help people access housing and provide ongoing support to ensure homelessness is rare, brief and non-reoccurring.

Lawler advocates that in cases of addiction, lack of housing should be addressed first, without preconditions of access such as abstinence.

“People need access to services that can wrap around what they need right then. Not a queue of linear services: ‘You can have that, then this, then the next thing,” says Lawler.

Lifewise supports the Government’s steps towards a harm minimisation approach. We have been asking people experiencing homelessness about synthetics as part of a fact-finding process with NZ Drug Foundation. Those on the street often regard the use of synthetics as a critical survival mechanism. Once housed, however, they are looking for support to reduce their use.

We are hopeful that a less punitive, more community-based approach will help people speak up about what they need, and what they believe has a chance of helping them improve their well-being.


Editor’s notes

Lifewise is an Auckland-based community social development organisation, who develop new ways to solve challenging social issues.

Focusing on the principle of interdependence rather than independence or dependence, Lifewise works to provide sustainable solutions to social issues, which attempt to address the root causes of social isolation and disadvantage.

Lifewise’s work has a number of focuses including ending homelessness, offering quality early childhood education to all, ensuring good quality foster care for children in need, running community-focused Merge Cafe and working with partners to provide safe affordable housing.