New rangatahi addiction pilot programme launched

By Piripi Taylor

A new programme looking to tackle alcohol and drug issues amongst Māori and Pasifika teens was launched in Auckland. The pilot, called Ease Up, will be delivered by Emerge Aotearoa in collaboration with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.

Minister of Health David Clark, who attended the launch, says this is a significant issue and it's inter-generational.

"As a government we're determined to take mental health seriously and this service has been designed with Māori and Pasifika, it's been designed by those with lived experience, by an outfit that has a reputation for doing things well."

Ease Up is collaboration between Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and Emerge Aotearoa, which provides community-based mental health, addiction, disability support and social housing services nationwide.

Culture and Inclusion Director for Emerge Aotearoa, Moe Milne says, "The difference with this programme is the commitment to participation of teens with lived experience, peer services and clinicians working in partnership with teens."

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei are happy to be collaborating on the project.  

Tama Davis of Ngāti Whātua Whai Maia, the cultural, social and environmental arm of the Auckland city tribe says, "We saw the work done by Emerge Aotearoa and knew that we needed to work together."

There is consistent evidence to suggest that over 1 in 3 young people aged 12-16 engage in binge drinking with a similar fraction of young people aged 16-21 engaging in hazardous drinking.

Approximately 11% of secondary school students are using drugs at a level that is likely to cause them significant harm, Māori and Pasifika people reported high rates in both areas.

Clark acknowledges that there are a lot more areas and people who are missing out on access to addiction and alcohol support services.

"As a country we need to ramp up our efforts.  We know that when we intervene early in mental health and in addictions people are likely to have their needs met before they become more serious," he says.

Both Emerge Aotearoa and Ngāti Whātua agree that more participation among Māori is vital.

"One of our goals at Emerge Aotearoa is that in time more Māori will become engaged in this space of taking care of our people," says Milne.

It is hoped that the programme will receive government funding in future.