In Parliament on Tuesday 31 August 2021, Overdose Awareness Day, I asked the Health Minister whether the Government would fund frontline workers to supply free naloxone (the overdose reversal drug) to people at risk of, or who may witness, an overdose.
You can read the answer below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).
Mr BERKMAN: My question this morning is to the Minister for Health. Today is Overdose Awareness Day. Despite Queensland being the second highest state for pharmaceutical overdose deaths we are the only state without any federal or state funding to supply Naloxone which reverses the effects of opioid overdose. Will the minister commit to funding frontline alcohol and other drug workers to supply free life-saving Naloxone or is the government too afraid of being seen as soft on drugs?
Mrs D’ATH: I thank the member for his question. Putting aside the cheap political comment at the end there, this is a very serious issue. When we talk about mental health, when we talk about crime, when we talk about youth crime and when we talk about homelessness, we have to talk about drugs and alcohol. We have to acknowledge that they form part of all of those issues and they are all interlinked. In fact, I raised this with the Commonwealth assistant minister responsible for mental health, saying, ‘With the national partnership agreement on mental health that we are negotiating now, will there be a dedicated funding stream for drug and alcohol support? Will the Commonwealth step up and support us in targeting this area, understanding how important it is in the mental health area?’ The answer was, ‘No. We are not having any dedicated funding in this space. We will continue to talk about the funding as a broad concept, but we are not funding any particular programs or facilities.’ We have strategies around drugs and alcohol, but the job is never done in this space. It is a very difficult area and we know it is a growing area. We can talk about drugs. We only need to listen to the Queensland Mental Health Commissioner who tells us the consequences of alcohol abuse and the impacts that that is having on our community. The impacts can be far greater. We have to tackle both of these areas. I do not think any government should be closed off to any ideas. We have to be willing to look at all models, all initiatives, what works and what does not around the globe. No-one has had all the answers to this. No-one has solved the problem of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. We are absolutely committed to working on these issues—working with stakeholders, both public and private, and working with all three levels of government. Importantly, I hope that the member is ensuring that his colleagues are asking these questions of the Commonwealth. I know those opposite will not ask those questions. They will not ask why the Commonwealth is not investing in drug and alcohol programs, why they are not playing their part and why they are not considering this as part of the negotiations under the national partnership agreement on mental health. I will continue to raise the issue because we cannot do this alone. We cannot fund everything on our own. The Commonwealth keeps stepping back from all of their responsibilities when it comes to health, mental health, the NDIS and aged care.
Mr Dick: Housing.
Mrs D’ATH: All of these areas. Housing—I will take that interjection from the Treasurer. We need more support and financial resources from the Commonwealth because this is not just a Queensland problem; it is a national problem. I say to the member that we are committed to looking at all initiatives. I will not rule anything in or out, but I am not playing cheap politics with this issue. I am not too scared to look at anything. We will look at what works and what does not. We will make sure we work on evidence based policy because that is what the Palaszczuk government always has done and always will do