Rural ice addicts left out in the cold without rehabilitation

WHERE'S THE PROGRESS?: MP Wedy Lovell has called for the government to use the money it promised in the budget for a new rehabilitation centre.

WHERE'S THE PROGRESS?: MP Wedy Lovell has called for the government to use the money it promised in the budget for a new rehabilitation centre.

Eleven months ago, the Victorian government promised more drug rehabilitation beds would be made available in the Hume region – now one Opposition MP wants to know why nothing has been done.

Almost $10 million was announced in the 2017-18 Victorian budget to acquire land in the Gippsland, Hume and Barwon regions for new rehabilitation facilities, which were expected to eventually deliver an increase of 340 new rehabilitation beds across the state.

Northern Victoria Liberal MP Wendy Lovell has accused the government of not being serious in its bid to tackle drug addiction.

“We are now on the cusp of a new state budget but still the minister continues to drag his feet on this issue, failing to make any announcements on land acquisitions to build the rehabilitation services that are so badly needed,” she said.

“I’d say just sitting on their hands is what they are doing.”

Ms Lovell said she was not advocating for a particular location for the facility, saying they were needed across the Hume region.

“Nearly every day we hear from families that need to get family members into rehabilitation facilities and are sending them all over the state,” she said. “We know drugs, and particularly ice, is a real issue in country areas.”

A residential rehabilitation facility attracted the second-highest number of votes when Wangaratta Council asked the city’s residents what they wanted to do with the former Yarrunga pool site, but that was turned into an off-leash dog park.

Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said the government working on rolling out 100 residential rehabilitation beds statewide, to open in 2019-20.

“We are continuing to plan for a new residential rehabilitation facility for the Hume region – one which gives local residents access to better treatment, while strengthening other local services,” he said.