The Abbott Government is pressing ahead with harsh cuts to programs combating ice addiction, answers to questions on notice at senate estimates have confirmed.
The cynical “rationalising and streamlining” of health programmes will see close to $800 million cut from the Health Flexible Funds, which includes funds supporting alcohol and illicit drug rehabilitation and treatment as well as prevention strategies.
Just two weeks ago the National Ice Taskforce released an interim report to COAG leaders which called for more government action to tackle this destructive drug. Headed by former Victorian Police Commissioner Ken Lay, the report calls for improved access to early intervention, treatment and support as well as enhanced tools for frontline workers.
Yet as a result of the Government’s Budget cuts the report’s priority areas for action are now unlikely to receive the attention they urgently require. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has warned that there has been a 24 per cent increase in the number of “treatment episodes” reported over the last five years nationwide.
Already there is a severe shortage of available beds in treatment facilities across Australia as demand increases. Communities want the services available to help them get on top of alcohol and illicit drug use, including ice addiction.
Instead, the answers to emerge from Senate Estimates paint a bleak picture – treatment services face an uncertain future because they have been abandoned by this Government.
Ice is a drug that is affecting vulnerable communities across Australia, Tony Abbott should not put it in the too-hard basket.