Number of nights funded for people to stay in mental health, addiction beds dropping

Newshub can reveal the number of nights funded for people to stay in mental health and addiction beds is dropping. 

One treatment centre told Newshub people are dying waiting for a bed. 

Abdullah Abdullah is a recovering addict who says The Retreat has "pretty much changed my life".

Before ending up here at the rehabilitation facility he told Newshub he was on a circular path, in and out of the youth justice system.

"Helped me connect back with my family, with the community, it's helped me change the people that I used to hang out with which pretty much led me to this place and yeah pretty much, it's pretty much saved my life." 

The Retreat is run by Janet Thompson. They don't get Government funding, not for lack of trying she said.

"People ring up for help and we have to say, 'look I'm really, really sorry. Unless you've got the money to pay for it, you can't come in to us now. You can apply to these places that are Government funded but you're going to be going on a huge waiting list'."

Newshub has been provided exclusive numbers for the funding of residential nights for people needing mental health, addiction and substance abuse treatment. What they show is that those bed nights have dramatically fallen over the past five years.

In 2017, 128,636 were funded, but over the last year only 88,048 were. That's a 31 percent drop.

The Health Minister says that's because more people are being treated by community programmes that don't require stays in facilities.

"That's where the big gap has been," said Andrew Little. "People who don't need to be tied up in hospital beds for a long time as they go on their journey of recovery but they do need support in the community and that where we're seeing the shift."

ACT argues for the amount of money the Government set aside for mental health - $1.9 billion in the 2019 Budget - we should be seeing more people being treated.

"We need the Government to answer where is the money going and why is it so hard for community centres that help our community to get funding," said ACT's Brooke van Velden. 

Thompson said she sees a huge unmet need on the ground.

"Some people can't wait. People die while they're waiting for a bed," said Thompson. 

The statistics show drug use is on the rise too. For instance, on the most prevalent illicit drug, methamphetamine, police and ESR wastewater testing data shows back in at the end of 2019 8.2kgs of meth was consumed per week nationally. Now, it's around 17kgs - more than double. 

"Overwhelming advice we getting is for more people to get more care in the community," said Little. "That shift's taking place. We will still have a challenge to meet the demand on the system that will continue to be a challenge for some time."

Abdullah said it's programmes like The Retreat that will have real impact where we need it. 

"There's a lot of other people. I feel like I'm lucky to get this opportunity you know."

Essential addiction treatment should not come down to luck.