With residents forced to wait upwards of three months for admission, and travelling hours to access services, one drug addiction counsellor says vital rehab services are needed in the region.
Bega drug and alcohol counsellor Col Langlo said there is a need to “crunch the cycle” of addiction as soon as possible.
“I have to be able to refer someone straight away if we are to really create change,” Mr Langlo said.
If it is going to be compulsory then they will definitely need to have a centre in the Bega Valley, or at least in the south east.Bega drug and alcohol counsellor Col Langlo
“If people come to my office and want rehab straight away, we could be right on it. I think we are in dire need, especially if you ask the men, they need a halfway house.”
Mr Langlo said with the region’s nearest centre in Nowra almost always at full capacity his clients often don’t know where they will be going for treatment.
“It’s luck of the draw,” Mr Langlo said.
“As soon as clients walk out of my office I’m on the phone to everyone in the state to see where there is an opening for them. I would like the community to have a place set aside from the hospital. It gives people the opportunity to take charge of themselves.
“It’s vital for the area, plus if it’s on Country then it’s also culturally sensitive,” he said.
Mr Langlo said long drives to Canberra, Nowra, and beyond, for services is costly for clients, and makes family visits extremely difficult at a time when support is critical.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, almost one third of addiction treatments are for alcohol, and over a quarter for amphetamine use, with the average client being men aged in their early 30s.
The most recent National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program survey found the use of methylamphetamine, fentanyl, MDA, and the pharmaceutical drug oxycodone is higher per capita in regional NSW than metropolitain areas.
The results led Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission CEO Michael Phelan to state the data shows “no single strategy in isolation can achieve sustained impacts and the ongoing necessity to employ a shared approach that targets supply, demand and harm reduction”.
Currently, the NSW government offers 24-hour counselling, funds six treatment clinics, and in 2015 committed $4million over four years for non-government treatment services to tackle methylamphetamine addiction.
In June, opposition leader Luke Foley, who visited Bega last week, committed to funding six detoxification and rehabilitation clinics across NSW if elected next year, with four to be located in regional areas.
Mr Foley did not commit to whether the Far South Coast would be one of the regional areas to host a centre, which will focus on “severe” methylamphetamine addiction and be mandatory for people referred by police and health professionals.
“I think it would stand to reason one would be built in the south of the state, but exactly where, we’re doing our homework there, and more will be announced closer to the election,” Mr Foley said.
“I think ice is just the most massive problem in so many regional communities, that’s why I’ve made a big commitment.”
Mr Langlo said the compulsory nature of the policy is a “bad idea”, as addicts must make the decision to enter rehabilitation themselves if they are to create long term change.
“I work with boys picking them up from where they are at, and I focus on the emotional side and their wellbeing as well,” he said.
“If they want to do it, and feel they have control over their future they will do it.
“If it is going to be compulsory then they will definitely need to have a centre in the Bega Valley, or at least in the south east.”
He said the choice between jail or rehabilitation is an easy decision for many addicts who find themselves in the state’s court system.
“For me community safety comes first,” Mr Langlo said.
“it’s a shame people often don’t see the potential for addicts to get in to the workforce and build a better life for themselves.”