Icy chill blankets Latrobe Valley

A 200 per cent jump in crystal methamphetamine-related ambulance call-outs in the Latrobe Valley from 2011 to 2013 points to increased usage across the area, according to a new report.

Figures contained in the Trends in Alcohol and Drug Related Ambulance Attendances in Victoria 2012/13 report, showed paramedics were called out to 30 incidents related to the drug, commonly known as ‘ice’, in Latrobe City in the 2012/13 financial year, up from 10 call-outs in 2011/12.

The City of Greater Geelong was the only other regional local government area that recorded more call-outs in 2012/13, with 50, but with population taken into account, Latrobe was the worse affected area.

The report was produced by health organisation, Turning Point, in conjunction with Ambulance Victoria, and funded by the State Department of Health.

Turning Point clinical director Matthew Frei said ambulance call-outs pointed to widespread use, and therefore an increase in call-outs represented an increase in users.

The local figures mirror a wider “alarming trend” of a 198 per cent increase in ice-related call-outs in regional Victoria; with 231 call-outs in 2012/13 compared to only 77 in 2011/12.

Turning Point researcher Dr Belinda Lloyd said the figures were of great concern, and an all-community approach was required to tackle the problem.

“We must continue to work hard to get the message out about what drugs can do to the individual as well as those close to them,” Dr Lloyd said.

“While the figures show the incidence of ambulance attendance for ice continues to rise, they again highlight that alcohol remains the biggest single cause of substance abuse call-outs.”

In Latrobe, paramedics attended 280 alcohol-related incidents in 2012/13, up from 190 the previous year.

Cannabis-related call-outs more than doubled in the Valley, from 29 in 2011/12 to 62 in 2012/13.