Border addicts in need of right care

ASSAULTS, thefts, domestic violence, hospital admissions and child abuse would all be reduced if there was a rehabilitation facility on the Border, say drug and alcohol clinicians.

With blown-out public waiting lists all over Australia, Albury-Wodonga addicts who are seeking help are often forced to wait months.

There is “zero” treatment in the area for heavy abusers, according to both Wodonga-based Gateway Community Health drug counsellor Bill Wilson and Albury-based Murrumbidgee Health drug and mental health clinician Alan Fisher.

“People are presenting for treatment every day,” Mr Wilson said.

“There’s obviously a lot of alcohol and other drug use out there.

“Families suffer, children suffer — it’s a pretty vicious cycle.”

Both clinicians said it was hard to co-ordinate admissions from a distance, with most facilities out of catchment areas many hours away.

The closest rehab facilities in Benalla and Wagga weren’t suitable for many clients and had long waiting lists.

The only option on offer for Border addicts is home detoxification, which is only suitable for low-level addictions.

The clinicians said the window of opportunity could be lost during the long wait, with most wanting help straight away.

They said ice addicts required specialised treatment not widely available in rehab facilities, let alone on the Border.

And the rise in its use was further pushing out waiting lists.

Mr Wilson said the main problem with the long waits were his clients were a danger to themselves and the community in the meantime.

Mr Fisher said addicts could overdose or, in the case of ice users, become homicidal or suicidal.

“Methamphetamine modulates multiple neurotransmitters that regulate things like emotion, reason, sleep and appetite,” he said.

The clinicians hoped a public hearing in Wodonga next month as part of a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into amphetamine and ice would identify the need for a treatment centre on the Border.

But Mr Wilson said he didn’t like the chances.

“Unless there is a public outcry, I can’t see them doing anything,” he said.

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