Push for residential rehab facility in Latrobe Valley

A LOCAL charity has expressed doubts the State Government’s $2.3 million funding injection to address Gippsland’s ice ‘epidemic’ can make an impact without a residential rehabilitation facility in place.

St Vincent De Paul Society Latrobe Valley and Baw Baw regional council president Kevin Hutchinson called the funding a “feeble” attempt by government “to be seen that they are doing something” about the region’s drug problem.

“Every parent that we spoke to whose child had fallen to ice would like to see a rehab facility that they can go to,” Mr Hutchinson said.

“They can’t beat it on their own.”

He said drug addiction has become a serious problem in the Valley, claiming children as young as 12 years old had begun experimenting with marijuana and alcohol.

The government funding, announced on 26 June, aims to expand rehabilitation services and prevention programs in Gippsland, with Latrobe Community Health Service receiving $1.9 million for a non-residential rehabilitation program and another $180,000 to expand its needle and syringe service. Mr Hutchinson said while community health services were “extremely dedicated” in their work, drug users should not become ‘out-patients’ who were sent home after seeing a doctor or a counsellor.

“They should be removed from the environment they’re in and stay in a facility where they can be treated. People at depths in their addiction should not be sent home,” he said.

Mr Hutchinson said the Valley was in desperate need of a residential rehabilitation centre as ice had not only become a health issue, but a security concern for the community as well.

He said six months ago the local charity banned its volunteers from providing services at boarding houses because of complaints of aggressive tenant behaviour.

“What we’re seeing with ice is extreme violence (at levels) we’ve never seen before,” he said.

Figures released by LCHS showed drug-related offences in Latrobe City had climbed by 42 per cent between 2012/13 and 2013/14.

Mental Health Acting Minister Jenny Mikakos said $18 million out of the $25 million the government allocated for extra support services distributed across the state would allow an extra 500 Victorians a year to be treated for drug addiction without removing them from their support networks such as family.

“Different people need different types of drug treatment,” Ms Mikakos said.

“They will be helped to rebuild their lives while still living their lives.”