Maurein Betts, who works for the Mahi Tahi Hauora Primary Care in Northland, says mental health and addiction is the bigger issue, and needs a major focus in the fight against methamphetamine and other harmful drugs.
Betts says the country’s drug strategy should cover the whole realm of mental health and addiction.
“It will be very shortsighted just to run a programme on methamphetamine because actually in fact you have cannabis, alcohol as well, so if you are going to put an infrastructure on Rarotonga, you should really consider the bigger issues around this problem,” says Betts.
She is in Rarotonga for family reasons but has accepted an invitation to talk to locals about the work she does, the programme she runs in New Zealand.
Betts says the mental health and addiction programme she heads is a collaborative relationship between the justice system, health and the community.
“The other significant thing about this is the action or the pivotal and sustainable resource is the community. So what we did was we asked the community what are the issues around the addiction, how would you like the information to be given and what would you need to be able to help yourself.
“It’s around community resilience and that’s what makes it sustainable. They don’t have to rely on specialists. It is about educating the community about all the signs and effect of methamphetamine.”
Betts says it is also important to look at the other social deterrents connected to the drug addiction problem in the Cook Islands.
“What we need to know is what is affecting that family. Is it they don’t have the money for food, is it they are living under the bridges or they can’t pay for the uniform for their kids to go to school. There are other social deterrents that is actually having an effect.”
Community groups working together with relevant stakeholders on the mental health and addictions programme would help the Cook Islands go a long way in tackling methamphetamine and other drugs here, she adds.
“You do need a group of people, who may have started with methamphetamine, but actually if you open the lens a bit more, the problem is not methamphetamine but what is happening around people in the community.
“Even with this programme, you would never think you can ever get rid of methamphetamine, cannabis or alcohol. It is part of human nature to want to be intoxicated so what we need to do is teach the community how to manage it.”