Grievance Debate: Mount Gambier Drug and Alcohol Services

Thursday February 14, 2019

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (15:29): Yesterday, a petition was tabled in this house with 3,771 names on it. The petition calls for the state government to provide funding for drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities in Mount Gambier, something I strongly support. This petition is the strongest indicator yet of how this issue resonates with my electorate. Addiction does not impact just the individual; it impacts families, friends, workplaces, colleagues and the whole community.

The lack of adequate drug and alcohol addiction facilities and services has been an issue for my region for years and years, long before I became an MP. When people approach my office for help, it is often the last resort and they are desperate. The stories I have heard firsthand in my office from people with family members lost to drugs, particularly ice, are heartbreaking. It is even worse when you do not know where to refer them on to.

Ice gets a lot of attention, and deservedly so. National statistics indicate that opiate use, including heroin and prescription drugs such as OxyContin, is on the rise. Alcohol is and always has been a major issue for Australians of all ages. What will the drug of choice be in the future? The fact is that we do not know yet. We need to be proactive, rather than reactive, and put in place facilities, education and tools to equip our community into the future.

Sophie Bourchier, the project coordinator of Substance Misuse Limestone Coast, says, 'This community has an unmet need for drug and alcohol counsellors, education and service delivery.' Sophie told me that there are currently 3.4 full-time equivalent drug and alcohol counsellors to handle the entire Limestone Coast catchment of 70,000 people. That does not include the Victorian side of our border, where people come across.

There used to be a drug and alcohol specific youth worker based in Mount Gambier, but not anymore. The wait time to see a counsellor can be weeks or even months. As Sophie told me, for someone wanting to get help the window of opportunity is very small. In the time they have waited to get in, they have relapsed.

I have looked at several regional communities that have excellent programs and facilities in this space. Across the Victorian border, in Warrnambool, the successful Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre (WRAD) has been running since 1986. The centre provides a diverse range of services to meet the multiple needs of people with alcohol and drug problems. The centre is a not-for-profit organisation that operates within a community-based management model, which makes their services highly relevant to their region. WRAD staff work collectively with other health-related professionals and organisations to best meet the needs of clients and their families.

The Riverland region has just begun a trial of the Matrix program, a program which has seen success in its initial trials in Adelaide. Dr Quentin Black and the PsychMed team are delivering this trial, as they are delivering three Matrix recovery programs, all located in Adelaide. This is an intensive outpatient program, which includes supported detoxification, education and opportunities for families and loved ones to be involved in the recovery process. Dr Black works with the community to develop a model of treatment that suits the individual and the region in which they live.

It is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing the problem of addiction. A model that works for regional communities is essential to the success of the program, as every region's needs are different. The programs and models are out there; we just need the financial backing and support of this state government to implement them.

The state government has said that, following a review of the Riverland program, they will consider extending the Matrix program to other identified areas of need in South Australia. I would like to state on record that I am calling on the state government to provide funding for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation model that will address the specific needs of my electorate. Whether this is funding to support a community-based centre or for the city to be the next regional trial site for the Matrix program, I would like to see Mount Gambier be front and centre of the state government's focus in this area. I have the support of 3,771 people in that petition.

This is an issue that transcends politics. We must work together for solutions for our community. Unfortunately, SA-Best showed that it would rather play politics than deliver for my community by deliberately bypassing the local member in tabling the petition yesterday. In a house where that party does not even have a member in this chamber, they chose another Independent purely for political reasons.