It has been 500 days since a crucial review of Australia’s drug and alcohol prevention and treatment services sector was handed to the Government.
Nothing has happened whilst the sector remains in a state of chaos and uncertainty.
The review, headed by the Drug Policy Modelling Program at the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, was commissioned by Labor and took two years to complete.
It should form the benchmark for Government action on Drug and Alcohol treatment, instead it appears to have been buried.
It was handed to the Government on 7 July last year but has never been released.
It comes just weeks after the Coalition once again refused to reveal how severely successive Budget cuts to the Health Flexible Funds will impact on alcohol and illicit drug treatment services.
We are still in the dark as to how much money will be ripped away from treatment services helping people overcome alcohol and illicit drug problems, including ice addiction.
What we do know is that the 2013-14 Budget ripped $197 million from the Flexible Funds, which included an initial $7 million cut from the Substance Misuse Prevention and Service Improvement Grants Fund and $1.2 million cut from the Substance Misuse Service Delivery Grants Fund.
In this year’s Budget Joe Hockey announced that a further $596 million would be ripped from Flexible Health Funds. But at Senate Estimates hearings in October officials couldn’t provide any information on how this latest cut will affect alcohol and illicit drug treatment services across Australia.
As things stand, every single treatment service in Australia is at risk.
It gets worse. The Government is still refusing to outline whether federal funding under the NGO Treatment Grants Program (NGOTGP) will be extended beyond the financial year. Last time around, a one-year funding extension was announced just two months before the July 1 deadline.
The resulting funding crisis continues to trouble workers on the frontline trying to help vulnerable communities.
Amidst all of this Government has managed to find $20 million for a graphic TV ad campaign warning of the dangers of ice as well as funds dedicated to a “dob in a dealer” hotline.
The National Ice Taskforce Report has also been handed to the Government, but it hasn’t been released either. Perhaps this is because it apparently calls for an expansion of treatment services and more emphasis on treatment, education and community support to reduce ice demand.
If the Coalition was actually concerned about the impact of ice on vulnerable communities it would rule out further cuts and finally release the review of drug and alcohol services in Australia.
Families across Australia trying to get their loved ones help deserve better.