‘We can’t win the drug war’

Annette Walton, Carmen Colley, Alan Fisher, Inspector Tony Davis and Heather Webster listen as Inspector David Cottee addresses the forum at The Cube, Wodonga. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Annette Walton, Carmen Colley, Alan Fisher, Inspector Tony Davis and Heather Webster listen as Inspector David Cottee addresses the forum at The Cube, Wodonga. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

TOP police from both sides of the border last night agreed that the “war on illegal drugs” could not be won.

Albury Inspector David Cottee told a forum at The Cube, Wodonga that drug addiction was a health issue rather than criminal and should be treated as such.

“The war on drugs is never going to work,” he said.

He was backed by Wodonga’s Inspector Tony Davis who said the “most potent” solution to the cities’ ice problems would be to provide timely medical intervention.

He said a rehabilitation centre on the Border was “exactly what was needed”.

The police chiefs and health leaders discussed the “insidious” drug ice with about 250 parents and citizens.

The forum began with presentations on the drug’s history, affects and dangers, treatment options and law enforcement responses.

But then questions from the audience turned to stark realities — the lack of places to treat addicts.

One mother said she’d spent more than $30,000 for treatment at a private centre for her child when she found no public beds were available.

“People here should know what the costings are,” she said.

“I don’t want them to have false hope about getting their kids into rehab.”

Another woman asked whether enough money was spent on early prevention strategies.

A third asked whether the Border needed a rehab facility and another why the federal budget hadn’t provided more money.

The panel members agreed funding was at the crux of solving a problem causing domestic violence, assaults and thefts.

Albury social worker Carmen Colley said ice took a long time to treat and waiting lists meant residential treatment options were few.

“It’s really frustrating for us as drug and alcohol workers to have someone sitting in front of you just so desperate to make changes, but they can’t until they go to that drug-free environment,” she said.

“We have people who wait months and relapse constantly.”

Albury alcohol clinical leader Alan Fisher and Ms Colley called for allocated beds in Melbourne and Sydney, as funding for a detox or rehab was expensive and limited.

Indigo Shire youth worker Annette Walton said programs empowering young people worked, but more were needed.

“It comes down to money — the resources aren’t available,” she said.

Albury mayor Kevin Mack called on the region’s politicians to have a “strong voice” and provide money for treatment and policing.

Wodonga mayor Rodney Wangman, member for Albury Greg Aplin and member for Benambra Bill Tilley were apologies.

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