PM pledges $300m for drug treatment

Former addict Jake has got his life back on track through residential rehab. Photo: Wolter PeetersAlmost $300 million will be invested in the drug treatment sector as part of a new national plan that shifts focus from policing to prevention.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will unveil the federal government’s National Ice Taskforce report on Sunday, rolling out a four-year strategy of improved treatment, aftercare, education, prevention, support and community engagement to tackle the crystal meth issue.

The new prevention focus marks a significant shift away from the hardline law-and-order strategy that has long failed to stifle supply.

The minister responsible for drug and alcohol policy,Fiona Nash, said that after “significant investment” in policing borders and streets to combat ice supply, work was needed to “reduce demand” for the drug.

In April last year, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a new taskforce which, headed by former former Victoria Police commissioner Ken Lay, united state and territory authorities in the ice strategy.

The response is a $241 million “boost” to the alcohol and drug treatment sector, with funding to be managed by the 31 Primary Health Networks set up by the Abbott government last year.

Asked if the funding was all new money, the minister’s spokesman said there was $297 “odd million” in fresh funding plus $15 million for advertising.

Matt Noffs, who as chief executive of the Noffs Foundation was part of the consultations, paid tribute to taskforce head Mr Lay, who he said was given “oxygen” by Malcolm Turnbull to take a “giant step forward.”

As the taskforce toured ice-ravaged communities starved of rehab services earlier this year, Mr Abbott’s own battle plan saw him announce the now infamous ‘dob-in-a-dealer hotline’ estimated to cost $1 million a year.

“It is my belief that Tony Abbott expected Ken Lay to say ‘we need more police’,” said Mr Noffs who added: “With Mr Turnbull as a conduit, Ken was far braver than that.”

Mr Lay has previous said: “Ice has been on the scene for over a decade and we’ve had a really strong law enforcement approach and it hasn’t resolved the problem. The time’s right now to look at the other options.”

“For social problems like these, law enforcement isn’t the answer. Unless you get into the primary prevention end, unless you stop the problem occurring you simply won’t arrest your way out of this.”

Almost $25 million will be set aside to arm families and communities with resources, information and support when ice issues emerge. A “key priority” of the plan will ensure that “indigenous-specific” and “culturally appropriate” mainstream treatment services are more widely available.

The action plan also includes significant investment in rural and regional areas, where the taskforce found specialist treatment services were few to non-existent.

Dr Lynne Magor-Blatch, executive officer of the Australasian Therapeutic Communities Association, expressed concern that the Government had chosen to distribute money through the PHNs which she described as “incredibly patchy”.

“Many are still in a changeover state from medicare locals and not properly developed,” she said, adding: “How are those resources going to flow through the PHNs when many would not even have relationships with the community organisations that are doing alcohol and other drug work?”

Drug treatment the key to young lives at crossroadsA fortnight ago, a Melbourne-based father was advisedthat if his 15-year-oldice-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 theiridentities.

“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, Davidwould 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 asthe 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 sectoras part of a new national plan that shifts focus from policing to prevention.

On Friday,The Sun-Heraldmet 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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