Courage and initiative Health

Home-grown effort pulls people out of addiction

Liz Makalio with the promotional tee-shirts the group sells to raise funds.

From an unassuming wooden boardroom table in a Porirua community centre a process to educate people on P is spreading around New Zealand.

It’s a home-grown initiative run by volunteers who support people and their families to better understand methamphetamine and its pull.

The success of the P Pull programme made it a finalist in the community service section of the Wellingtonian of the Year Awards late in 2017.

It also won the Matua Raki National Addiction Workforce Development supreme award at the DAPAANZ (the professional association for people working in addiction treatment) conference’s Cutting Edge awards earlier the same year.

How it started

P Pull had humble beginnings one Friday evening in the eastern Porirua City suburb of Waitangirua.

It was around this boardroom table at Wesley Community Action in Waitangirua that Liz Makalio, pictured, and her team created the beginnings of the P Pull programme. Photo: Rosemary McLennan

Lizzie Makalio is the team manager at Wesley Community Action.

One afternoon Lizzie’s two daughters walked into her Waitangirua office with a young woman in her thirties who was having a psychotic episode on P.

Lizzie phoned the local hospital and several 0800 services but to no avail.

Finally she, and the girls, took the young woman home.

It was close to midnight when they got her to sleep and she spent the weekend there detoxing.

At the time, Lizzie was also a member of the Porirua Meth Reduction Team and had considerable knowledge of the issues through her own experience with close friends.

On the Monday morning, Lizzie took the young woman back to her work to seek support from a member of her team to try and get the woman into rehab or detox.

That experience left Lizzie feeling frustrated and let down by the system.

This led to a desire to open the doors at Wesley Community Action to anyone – whether a P user or family member – for information and support.

Management permission was granted and, in September 2016, the doors were opened.

The meeting room was packed with locals and people from as far as Levin and the Hutt Valley.

There were people who had used P and were going cold turkey as well as their family members.

Since then every Monday from 10 am until noon the doors are open.

The work, called ‘Walk In,’ is not funded, as such, by any one person or group, but Wesley does contribute hugely by allowing Lizzie’s time and the space to hold the Walk In around The Table each week.

They also started a Facebook page, which has proven invaluable for people to share experiences, ask questions and receive advice.

Lizzie brought her husband, Dennis Makalio, a senior member of the Mongrel Mob’s national Rogue chapter, on board.

Dennis, described by Lizzie as the voice of prevention and education, decided it was time to get loud and hold the first event so he invited candidates in the 2016 local body elections in Porirua to a public meeting.

“The venue was packed out and there were many tears,” Lizzie says.

More events were held and a group was formed, called New Zealand P Pull, which is now known as a strong movement across Aotearoa.

“They take a huge part in leading The Table,” Lizzie says.

What happens around The Table

It’s around the large oval table at the Wesley Community Action in Waitangirua that lives begin to change for the better.

P users learn what’s happening to them, what the detox process is and where they can get support – largely from others around The Table.

P gives people who use it a much greater dopamine high than many other addictions. But the crash is also greater and users will do anything to get more P.

Also around the table are people affected by P through friends or whanau and those who want to help others get free and/or just understand the drug and its pull on their loved one.

“That’s the magic that happens at The Table,” Lizzie says.

She tells the story of a young man from Upper Hutt who came in with all the symptoms of someone going cold turkey.

An elderly couple whose daughter was on P talked about their anguish.

The young guy offered them insight into their daughter’s logic and behaviour and, hearing their frustrations and hurt, he left The Table, inspired to visit his own mother.”

Lizzie doesn’t know the outcome but says it was a “moment of empathy.

People come from all areas of society.

Close to 6000 are on the Facebook page and a many members are now joining from Australia, many of them associated with Aotearoa.

People have told Lizzie they could be dead if they hadn’t found the page.

There is a screening process applied to those who want to join the site and an eye is kept on posts to keep it safe.

Spreading around New Zealand

Meanwhile, the Monday Walk-In around The Table has taken off and been replicated in Lower Hutt, Palmerston North, Taihape, Dannevirke, Auckland, Waipukurau, Napier, Hamilton and Gisborne. New groups have begun in Taupo and at the Pomare Taita Community House in Lower Hutt.

Everyone involved is a volunteer.

“They have passion and heart and have gone out into their community [to look] for free space,” Lizzie explains.

All have found space to set up their own Table.

Lizzie is grateful to the Drug Foundation and Matua Raki for their support and help with guidance and resources. She calls them her “go to” people.

P Pull supporters on the steps of Parliament in September 2017. The group formed the letter P to raise awareness around the drug.

New Zealand P Pull have been to Waitangi in the far north, Napier, Murupara, Waiuku, Whanganui, Lower Hutt and Taupo to share the concept, based on education and prevention.

Volunteers often use their annual leave or take unpaid leave.

To help pay for travel and accommodation, they sell tee-shirts (pictured at top).

There are also promotional anti-meth stickers that you can see around the countryside in many different places, placed by the community for the community.

Prevention solutions

Keys to getting off P are:

One      Teaching about the need for sufficient sleep

Two      Eating nutritional food

Three   Getting exercise, which can be as simple as just walking

There are loads of people on the page who have done it. They are the inspiration for the ones going through withdrawal,” says Lizzie.

The page is also a place where people can ask questions. Because of the wide experience, there will be plenty of useful replies.

The Walk In is based at Wesley Community Action at the rear of Waitangirua Mall on the corner of Niagara Street and Warspite Avenue in Waitangirua.

To contact the team at Wesley Community Action:

Ph 04 235 5750

Email: [email protected]

Wesley Community Action Waitangirua

Facebook:  New Zealand P pull

Further information:

National addiction workforce development

New Zealand Drug Foundation



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