Former addict Jake has got his life back on track through residential rehab. Photo: Wolter Peeters$300 million pledged for drug services
A fortnight ago, a Melbourne-based father was advised that if his 15-year-old ice-addicted son wanted professional treatment, he would be better off committing a crime in NSW – where a judge could at least offer him options.
“David has always suffered terrible anxiety issues and the drug issue became a way of self-medicating,” said Adam, whose real name has been withheld along with his son’s to protect their identities.
“This year, he stopped coming home. It started off as one night. Then became a week, two weeks. The police would locate him but as long as he claims he is OK, they are not permitted to bring him home. Even though he is still a child whose drug abuse is escalating.”
In recent times, David has been charged as an accessory to car theft, accessory to serious assault and broken police bail on 13 occasions.
“If there was any sort of mandatory treatment system in Victoria, David would already have been directed to a facility tailored to help him. Instead, he is trapped in a cycle of abuse. This federal government funding announcement is fantastic news.”
Adam is currently trying to find a way of funnelling his son to an interstate residential treatment centre such as the Sydney-based Program for Adolescent Life Management (PALM) run by the Matt Noffs Foundation.
In the coming years, government spending will be ploughed into a host of such programs tailored not only to youngsters hooked on ice, but across-the-board drug addiction.
Under an announcement by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, almost $300 million will be invested in the drug treatment sector as part of a new national plan that shifts focus from policing to prevention.
On Friday, The Sun-Herald met Jake, an indigenous teenager whose life is back on track after two stints of residential therapy at PALM.
“I was in DOCS as a child because my mum and dad couldn’t look after me. I was exposed to smoking, alcohol and domestic violence. It wasn’t a great upbringing. By year 8, I wasn’t having such a great time. I experimented a little too much with drugs and fell into addiction.”
Like most kids in that position, he had “no real understanding” of what rehab was before he arrived.
“I pictured a white hospital with white corridors and beds, that type of scenery. It could not have been more different. It felt like a home.”
Jake, whose real name has been withheld, completed a three month stint at PALM last year. After falling back down the same path, he returned to the centre in early April. While he is the first to admit that rehab is no magic wand, he is proud of the changes and “improvements” in himself. Now 18, he has found a passion for public speaking and volunteering with indigenous children in primary schools.
“You learn a lot about yourself in therapy,” said Jake who added: “It’s given me a big boost.”
“When I’m about to fall into old habits, I have a reason to control it. I recognise the triggers. I also realise what my addiction was doing to those around me.”
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