LONG waiting lists and a lack of residential rehabilitation beds are making it tougher to beat the ice crisis, the chief executive of a leading drug rehabilitation service says.
Odyssey House head Stefan Gruenert has renewed the call for more funding for rehabilitation and treatment options, saying the earlier people can get access to help when sought, the more chance of a successful recovery.
His comments come in the days after the Victorian government announced its plans to tackle the ice crisis, including spending $15 million on drug buses and introducing new penalties for manufacture and trafficking of the drug.
A 16-member ice taskforce including representatives from drug and alcohol organisations will also be formed to develop an action plan — a plan Mr Gruenert hopes will include more focus on rehab.
“We’re strongly of the view you can’t police your way out of any drug addiction,” he said.
“It (ice) is clearly a problem affecting a lot of people and families in the community and they have been asking for more rehab and education.
“A law and order response is typically more expensive and less successful.”
Odyssey House has been calling for more funding for residential treatment facilities such as those that run out of its Molyullah centre, near Benalla that costs about $1.2 million per year to run.
That centre, along with other similar services in Melbourne, have waiting lists of four to six months long; those months, Mr Gruenert says, can be the difference between an addict getting help or slipping through the cracks entirely.
“It is always heartbreaking when someone presents and you can’t respond to their needs immediately,” he said.
“People’s motivation to address their addiction comes and goes, so it’s always better to have the services available when they first present.
“Ice is also a drug where most people have slipped into addiction fairly quickly from recreational use, so if they can get in early it’s often a lot easier to turn things around than someone who has years and years of addiction, and might have associated issues like mental health concerns or homelessness.”
The Victorian government, as well as Victoria Police, have said beating the ice crisis will need a whole community approach, not just law-and-order measures.
Mr Gruenert said he was pleased the new government had acted so quickly in introducing its plans, but maintained ice needed to be “treated as a health issue”.