The costings provided by the Parliamentary Budget Office, show direct savings to the state budget of $168 million over the forward estimates.
Ms Patten said “We are banging our heads against the wall, if we think we can arrest our way out this problem, but by shifting the focus to treatment improves outcomes across the board. It will save lives and save money.”
The Reason Party policy is modelled on Portugal. Since it decriminalised all drugs in 2001, Portugal has seen dramatic drops in overdoses, HIV infection and drug-related crime. Fears around an overall increase in drug use never materialised.
In Portugal, the drugs are still illegal, but rather than being arrested, those caught with a personal supply are written a summons to appear before their drug dissuasion commission the following day. The commission consisting of a doctor, a lawyer and a social worker focus on treatment, harm reduction, and the support services available. A warning or a small fine can also result. Anyone found with more than the personal use limit in Portugal still faces criminal charges.
“Being sensible on drugs clearly works. Portugal overdose deaths have dropped to 3 per million citizens, compared to Australia’s 75 drug induced deaths per million.” said Ms Patten, quoting ABS figures from 2016.
As part of the Inquiry into Drug Law Reform, Ms Patten travelled to Portugal to look at the impact of decriminalisation.
“The systemic differences are obvious, as are the improved outcomes.” Said Ms Patten “The underlying philosophy is that addiction is a chronic, recurring disease from which people can recover with treatment, and that it can be prevented through education and early intervention before drug use becomes problematic.”
Ms Patten added “These figures do not take into account the indirectly impact on the health system or productivity. If you take into account the flow-on effects, our net budget position would be even better. My plan would be to invest these significant savings directly in Mental Health”.