Throsby MP Stephen Jones has warned that harsh cuts to funds supporting alcohol and illicit drug treatment, including services for crystal methamphetamine (or ice) addiction, are having a particularly severe impact in the Illawarra.
This morning a former bikie and now Christian pastor, Matthew Craddock, has revealed that he had to wait three months before he could join a rehabilitation program for ice addiction.
The cynical rationalising and streamlining of federal 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.
Stephen Jones said that the people in the Illawarra should be demanding better from Canberra.
Communities want the services available to help them get on top of alcohol and illicit drug use, including ice addiction.
The Liberals have found money for a dob in a dealer ice hotline and a $20 million graphic TV ad campaign telling Australians that ice is a problem. But at the same time as they are talking tough on ice they are ripping money away from where it is really needed.
He said that without properly funded treatment services in the local area problems associated with alcohol and illicit drug use, particularly ice, will worsen.
There is a severe shortage of available beds in treatment facilities across Australia as demand increases, but the situation is acute in the local area.
Over the weekend I was in Alice Springs and the week before that in Nowra visiting alcohol and drug treatment services. I can tell you that they are facing exactly the same problems.
The head of the National Ice Taskforce Ken Lay has said we can't arrest their way out of the problem and have to look to other strategies, such as rehabilitation and prevention.
But the Justice Minister, Michael Keenan, seems to disagree. As he revealed yesterday during Question Time, he is entirely focussed on reducing supply through law enforcement efforts and doesnt understand that vulnerable communities need a hand to get on top of drugs like ice.