Wait times for patients referred to Northland’s only addiction detox unit, Timatanga Hou at Dargaville Hospital are likely to be reduced after a portion of funding awarded to the Te Ara Oranga project was allocated to them to expand and enhance responsive treatment at the facility.
In 2017 Te Ara Oranga, a joint initiative between Police and Northland DHB was allocated funding for the 12-month pilot from the Proceeds of Crime Fund sourced through the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009.
The initial 12-month funding was for the establishment phase (new treatment options/ referral pathways) and recruitment of health and police personal. Te Ara Oranga was operational from October 2017. Police have continued to resource the team of eight staff in Northland and the DHB has received further funding until June 2019.
Timatanga Hou first opened in early 2010 with just three beds to serve the entire region. At the time, this gave Northland patients some relief from having to travel to Auckland for treatment and be separated from family.
The unit’s success proved so popular in its first year that they increased bed numbers to five to reduce wait times for the much needed facility after being consistently booked throughout the year.
Timatanga Hou provides a fully supportive treatment plan for each patient referred to the Unit. The treatment includes medical and non-medical intervention, counselling support for the patient and their Whānau and focuses on encouraging patients to set achievable goals to help prevent relapses.
Methamphetamine use is a growing issue in New Zealand and the Te Ara Oranga project has been a successful integrated model of police, health and community groups working together in an attempt to rid the community of meth.
Between August 2018 and 11 January 2019, police made 87 arrests, executed 76 search warrants, issued 27 Reports of Concern for 73 children, seized 28 firearms and referred 257 people for treatment.
Te Ara Oranga project referrals to Timatanga Hou have increased the wait time at Timatanga Hou from 2-4 weeks in January 2017 to 6-8 weeks in June-December 2018.
Northland DHB Chief Executive Dr Nick Chamberlain who attended the official blessing of the new beds noted that last year there were approximately 140 discharges from Timatanga Hou. The increased bed numbers would allow for greater use of the service and would see the service working towards 200 discharges per year, reducing the 6-8 week waiting list.
Dargaville Hospital Operations manager Jen Thomas thanked not only the hospital maintenance team that worked on the new facilities, the maternity unit who gave them the extra space to house the extra beds and improvements, but also Timatanga Hou Clinical Nurse Manager Rachel Beech who worked hard to recruit seven new staff to the unit to cope with increasing numbers.
Jen said they are excited about the increase in service and look forward to welcoming the first of the patients today after the facility opened on Monday and staff had a chance to gain some extra training to prepare for the increased patient numbers.
“Let’s hope with these extra beds we can reduce the wait list so more people seeking support for their addictions can benefit from our service.”
General Manager of the Mental Health & Addiction services at Northland DHB Ian McKenzie said that acknowledging that addiction is a community issue and having a suite of services that can be tailored to each patient while also offering support for Whānau makes this programme of treatment and Te Ara Oranga work.
“Many people and groups have visited us to see what’s so special about Te Ara Oranga. Our work to reduce methamphetamine demand here in Northland is based on working together in communities to provide a range of services, knowing that together we can provide services when and where they are needed. The increase in detox beds is incredibly helpful to this approach.”
Te Ara Oranga’s employment service Employment Works, also located at Dargaville Hospital have received 116 referrals (since August 2017), assisted 48 people into new work, helped 7 people in employment at risk of losing their jobs helped stay in work, placed 18 people on training/ unpaid work experience and 8 people into unpaid voluntary work.
Meanwhile, district health board methamphetamine focused clinicians have been managing 803 cases since August 2017.
Photo: NGO and DHB staff gathered on Monday to open the three new Timatanga Hou detox beds.