VICTORIAN Premier Daniel Andrews returned to his home town of Wangaratta yesterday, where he admitted “we haven’t got this right” on the issue of ice.
But his admission was the first step for the state government’s Ice Action Plan, which has committed $45.5 million toward tackling the epidemic.
Mr Andrews sat with parliamentary secretary for health Mary-Ann Thomas and member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes at a forum at Gateway Health.
Together they engaged with 17 professionals and people from Wangaratta who have felt the impact of the drug and discussed how ice can best be tackled in the North East and across the state.
The $18 million dedicated exclusively to rehabilitation models in rural and regional areas will be allocated through a bidding process.
Mr Andrews said the department would work hard to have the money flowing by July 1.
An additional $4.7 million will go toward helping families identify and manage ice users and $1 million will support frontline workers.
“It is important that we are really frank with the Victorian community and acknowledge this drug has got away from us and we need to redouble our efforts,” Mr Andrews said.
“These are the things that cannot wait, but there is going to be a lot more hard work over many months and indeed years.
“This is the biggest boost to drug treatment services we have seen for many many years and it is certainly the biggest piece that regional Victoria has ever seen.”
Murray Valley MP Tim McCurdy attended the briefing along with people who have had family members addicted to ice, paramedics, police, youth mental health workers, sport club representatives and more.
Mr Andrews said the overall aim of the action plan is to make sure ice addicts get the treatment they need as close to home as possible and that families get the support that they deserve.
He also said he is “looking forward” to speaking to whoever the NSW premier is after the state election about better co-ordination across the Border.
Ice-related ambulance attendances increased 200 per cent between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 financial years and about 80,000 Victorians used ice in the last year.
Mr Andrews said he hoped to be back in the next six to 12 months for further discussions.