Hope for Waikato addicts to heal closer to home

A dire nationwide need for drug and alcohol support services is being addressed in Waikato with a new home away from home to help addicts recover close to their families.

The Waikato Alcohol and Drug Community Support Trust is one of several charities funded by the DHB to offer counselling and support. It has helped over 1400 addicts at its converted residential home in central Hamilton since 2001.

But it says people needing more intensive treatment must move temporarily to Auckland for rehab due to a shortage of beds in Waikato.

"At the moment people go out of town to places like Higher Ground in Auckland to access rehab beds, and it takes time and money to travel to and from the treatment process that a lot of families just don't have. They are part of the treatment process as well," says Steve King, director of the Waikato Alcohol and Drug Community Support Trust.

The Trust currently has nine beds at its Manning St property for people needing support before and after they go off to intensive rehab.

With the help of donors like the Waikato-based Gallagher family, it's just bought two lavish adjoining homes - tripling its capacity so up to 30 people at any one time can go through every step of their recovery closer to home. 

But the Community Support Trust needs operational funding of $300,000 a year to run the homes.  

"Addiction is the poor cousin of mental health but it's a problem in its own right. We are ready to go, we just need operational funding ideally from government."

Former meth addict Mark Young, 62, agrees not having to move away to Auckland for a month of intensive 24/7 rehab would be beneficial for someone's recovery.

Convicted of theft and driving offences, he sought help with the Trust five years ago.

"I had my first blackout on alcohol when I was nine, took LSD when I was 13," he says.

"Once I surrendered and ended up at treatment I found something inside me. I grew, I learnt self-care, quiet moments; you discover nature and have access to education and medical help."

The Ministry of Health agrees "there is a need to expand capacity to support people... in the Waikato district" and adds while community-based services and counselling are effective for many, "for a smaller number residential services may be the best option".   

It's currently developing a national framework around access to all these services.

King hopes Waikato won't miss out.

"There's a social epidemic happening here and it's called methamphetamine and the DHB's outpatient services is great but some of us need to go into residential care just to get away from it all."

With operational funding he hopes the Trust's two newly acquired homes could soon offer that in Waikato/Bay of Plenty where almost half a million people now live.