Ground breaking new research confirms more and more Australians are using the drug ice and there aren’t anywhere near enough treatment services available to help.
The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) has warned in a study published this morning in the highly respected Medical Journal of Australia that:
- Almost 270,000 Australians are regular users of methamphetamine, with one in 100 addicted to the harmful drug.
- The rate of dependent use had increased in the last five years.
- The highest rates of use were amongst young people under the age of 34.
- There is a clear and urgent need for an expansion of services to treat people using ice.
Late last year the Government responded to the release of the National Ice Taskforce Report by promising a $300 million investment in treatment and community prevent services to combat ice use.
But when it comes to this announcement you need to read the fine print carefully. We now know following MYEFO and Senate Estimates hearings that the “new” money is coming from the following cuts:
- $141 Million from “Mental Health – streamlining”.
- $78.6 Million from “Indigenous Australian Health Program.
It is also far too little to help communities get on top of ice and other drugs. Frontline workers have said that the federal funding is enough to cover “about a quarter of a staff member” in a treatment service.
Experts like Ted Noffs Foundation chief executive Matt Noffs have warned that this funding is simply not enough and that support for young users should be a high priority.
Existing pressures on treatment services have been caused in large part by the Coalition’s harsh cuts to the alcohol and illicit drug sector.
Over two Budgets the Coalition has cut almost $800 million from the Health Flexible Funds, which includes funds supporting alcohol and illicit drug rehabilitation and treatment as well as prevention strategies. We still don’t know where the axe will fall when it comes to services relying on these funds.
The Coalition’s mishandling of NGO Treatment Program Grants continues. For a second successive year services relying on this vital government grant have been offered a short-term, one year funding extension.
This temporary reprieve means that they can’t retain experienced staff, plan for the future and invest in the services they offer to vulnerable Australians. Last year this led to an urgent funding crisis and created enormous anxiety in the sector. Now we are set to go through that same process again.
The Coalition must listen carefully to the concerns of the NDARC and the sector and provide long-term funding certainty for treatment services under the pump to help people with substance misuse problems.