Psycho-active substance ban significantly reduces violence-related admissions to Whanganui's mental health facilities

14 April 2015
Whanganui District Health Board’s (WDHB) mental health facilities have not had a single violence-related admission resulting from psycho-active substances, since they were banned in May last year.
The Government’s move to introduce the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 to control importation, manufacture and sale of party pills, herbal highs, legal highs, synthetic cannabis and legal recreation drugs has had a dramatic and very positive impact on Whanganui’s mental health services, says WDHB director of area mental health services Jeff Hammond
“There is no denying that almost overnight, drug-induced individuals stopped presenting to Te Awhina and Stanford House,” Mr Hammond says.
“The fact that more than 300 individuals presented to our Mental Health and Addiction Services due to the effects of psycho-active substances shows it was a significant issue for us,” Mr Hammond says.
 “And so too was the fact that our mental health staff had to deal with 50 aggressive and threatening incidents that included assaults on staff and patients, incidents where staff were injured and thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to hospital property.
“The withdrawal side-effects experienced by some patients addicted to psycho-active substances were also devastating. A number of patients were referred onto Residential Rehabilitation programmes.”
“To see the violence-related behaviour that goes hand-in-hand with psycho-active substances come to an end, has been very encouraging for our frontline staff and the WDHB as a whole.”
Mr Hammond says it’s wonderful to think that the ban may be saving a lot of anguish for families throughout the district and across the country.
“This is an example of how the public and health sector can work together to improve the health and well-being of our population and in this instance, those affected by harmful psycho-active substances.”