Latrobe Community Health Service jobs set to go

Latrobe Community Health Service has confirmed jobs will go from its drug treatment program as part of a State Government review.

The health service moved to reassure the public the cuts would not impact on the program’s delivery, but the Australian Services Union believes the impending redundancies could extend to counselling and recovery positions.

LCHS manager drug treatment services Ann Hamden said there were “changes” to the health provider’s funding, following the government review into drug treatment, which would result in a “small number of redundancies”.

The government says LCHS has not lost funding as a result of the review.

According to Ms Hamden, another organisation will now undertake the initial intake and assessment of people seeking help for alcohol and drug problems and refer the client to LCHS for treatment.

“Drug treatment services in the Latrobe Valley won’t be impacted,” she said.

Australian Services Union lead organiser Michelle Jackson is “yet to be convinced” the job cuts will only impact intake and assessment roles. She believes there could be up to seven equivalent full-time positions lost across the drug treatment program.

“We believe it’s more than intake and assessment that is going,” Ms Jackson said.

“My understanding is they’re going to be cutting counselling positions and care and recovery positions.

“The big concern of the staff is that the clients and the community are going to suffer for this.”

There are currently 23 people working in the drug treatment service at LCHS, not all of them full-time.

The program sees about 1900 clients per year.

Ms Jackson said following conciliation talks at Fair Work Australia on Thursday, the union and organisation had “agreed on a way forward” and there would be more consultation before the implementation of the changes in September.

She did not provide details of the agreement, as it is confidential.

Mental Health and Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge said individuals and families in Gippsland would now have streamlined and centralised access to treatment services and organisations would be supported by more flexible funding arrangements.

She said a new area-based approach would result in better integration with other health and human services.

Ms Wooldridge said the review came about in response to calls for change from within the drug and alcohol sector and the Victorian Auditor General reported in 2011 that under the previous Labor Government, the treatment system was fragmented and challenging for clients to navigate.

“The over $41 million in funding will fund 27 consortia comprising 83 adult non-residential treatment and support services in 16 catchment areas across the state,” she said.

“By collapsing 20 funding streams into five, we are reducing red tape for providers of treatment services.”