Drug Summit

Drug Summit

(Question Time, 23 August 2023, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Will the Minister update the House on the Government's commitment to host a drug summit?

Response from Minister for Health, Minister for Regional Health, and Minister for the Illawarra and the South Coast: 

I thank the member for Sydney for his advocacy in the area of harm minimisation and drug law reform. He is on the harm minimisation roundtable, along with my colleague, the Minister for Transport. They are two individuals who care very deeply—along with others on both sides of this Chamber and the crossbench—about drug law reform and making sure that we keep our citizens as safe as possible.

It is also great to have the second-best member for Keira in the public gallery today. I am only joking—he remains the best. This is an important issue. Next year we will be hosting the drug summit. The member for Sydney and I have discussed the issue already, and I hope that everyone across the Chamber engages on it. Having spent a lot of time in various communities over the past four years as shadow health Minister and then in the role of the Minister for Health, I assure members that this issue touches every single one of our communities. Whether in the bush, in remote parts of New South Wales, in large metropolitan areas like Wollongong or Newcastle or in Sydney and the suburbs, if you scratch the surface, many families and communities are dealing with the issue every single day. Nearly 25 years ago, this place hosted the first and only drug summit that we have had. What outcomes were delivered, as a result of the brave women and men, as legislators and reformers, who took a leap of faith. As a result of that summit, just a few kilometres away in the electorate of the member for Sydney, we have the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre.

If members have not been to it, I would encourage them to make their way there and have a look. Uniting runs it. The service has saved lives and helped people who have undergone a drug overdose in a way that was simply not possible before. We know the challenge is real. Back then it was largely heroin. The drug of choice has changed to ice and that sort of psychedelic drug. We know the challenge is real within our communities. 

Right now at St Vincent's Hospital, just down the road in the electorate of the member for Sydney, is the Psychiatric Alcohol and Non-Prescription Drug Assessment or PANDA operation. It is designed to allow people with psychiatric alcohol and non-prescription drug use to be treated in an emergency department in a way that they have never been before, giving them dignity, respect and rapid treatment, whilst at the same time allowing a general emergency department to operate. That is what we are going try to roll out in other parts of New South Wales. That is the sort of initiative that I want the men and women—the experts in the field—to bring forward as part of the drug summit next year.

The summit will look at legal issues, law enforcement, education and, most importantly, from my perspective, health and treatment. We must focus on the people who often see us in our electorates, whose family members have been dealt a severe blow because of drug use and who are looking for help. They are looking for treatment. We will be rolling out a treatment service in the electorate of Dubbo, something that the member for Dubbo and others across this place and in the other place have advocated for. The Hon. Stephen Lawrence in the other place was a very strong advocate for that service. It is an example of a service that I want to see driven as a result of the drug summit. Opioid use in this country costs us around $15 billion a year. If we do not get on top of this health issue, we will continue to lose lives. I hope all members in this place will work with the health professionals and people like Dan Howard, the commissioner in the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug "Ice", and help to put forward real solutions that will change lives, change families and change communities across New South Wales.

Let's work together to celebrate and protect our great city!