A reputation for drug use has been associated with Wangaratta in recent years, but Tammy Atkins says the city is also leading the way in helping addicts get clean in the community.
The independent candidate for Ovens Valley has called on the Victorian government to fund about $130,000 for the Wangaratta Local Drug Action Team to launch a pilot program.
It would allow co-ordinators to fundraise for and organise community-led recovery activities, based on a system used in the United States.
“I think it’s really cheap to say it’s just a law and order issue … Police can’t do this alone, it’s a whole of community issue,” Ms Atkins said.
“Wangaratta has really stepped up, we have made problematic drug use a community issue.”
The Drug Action Team has started work with what she called “token” funding from the federal government of $34,000 in 2017 and $17,000 in 2018.
“I’ve spoken to people in recovery and they support this,” she said.
“We know that it works.
“We’ve been doing it with a little bit of money, imagine what we we could do if it was appropriately funded.”
Statistics show 80 per cent of people in jail or connected with the justice system have a problem with drug or alcohol addiction and 43 per cent of people released from jail reoffend within two years.
Ms Atkins has also called for $150,000 to $200,000 to conduct a business case for a Wangaratta Recovery and Training Centre, ideally attached to the 30-bed drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre to be opened at the former Ovens College site.
It would help connect drug addicts, who have been recently released from jail and do fit school or adult education, with job training or education in order to help them regain support and break the cycle of crime.
“We need to have transitions in place to help people transition back into our community,” Ms Atkins said.
“We know we’ve been missing out because we just haven’t had that representation that we’ve had in the past.
“This is the type of community project I’m going to take into the Victorian Parliament should I be successful at the next election.”
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