New drug, alcohol service

A NEW service, which aims to reunify families where drug and alcohol problems have led to children being removed from the care of parents, will begin in Gippsland soon.

The $1.9 million drug and alcohol program, provided by Uniting and funded by the state government, will enable parents whose children are the subject of family reunifications orders to access services faster.

Three full-time roles will be added at Uniting Gippsland, working across all six shires, including Wellington.

This new assessment, counselling, and treatment service will complement the range of child and family services, including ChildFIRST and integrated family services, offered by Uniting in the region.

Uniting Gippsland’s client services manager, Tracey Donaldson, said it was important to offer these services.

“The factors that lead someone to become dependent on alcohol and other drugs are complex,” she said.

“Appearing in court and showing how far they have come so they can be reunited with their children can add to the pressure.

“These parents and their children deserve intensive, wrap-around services to get them back to a normal family life as soon as possible.”

Uniting Gippsland chief executive Di Fisher said accessibility was a priority.

“This is a whole of Gippsland service — Wellington being part of that — and what this service will do will prioritise reunifying families where alcohol and drug issues have led to children being removed from their parents’ care.

“This will prioritise working on the issues that led to the removal,” she said.

“It’s incredibly important to have local services, as instead of going to Melbourne, it’s more accessible — it’s Gippsland people delivering to Gippsland people.

“We’ll go to people wherever they need to be seen.”

The announcement of the Uniting program comes in the wake of the release of statistics last week which revealed regional Victorians were using the drug ice at a far higher rate than anywhere else in the nation.

Figures released in the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program report by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission show one location in rural Victoria recorded a rate more than three times the national average.

A breakdown of regional statistics is not available.

The statistics also showed that Australian Federal Police seized about 40 per cent of the methamphetamine needed to meet national demand.

While in the capital cities, heroin and cocaine average consumption exceeded regional consumption, nicotine, methamphetamine, MDA, oxycodone and fentanyl average consumption in regional areas was far more than in urban areas.

The Uniting initiative is on top of a proposal to build a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre near Bairnsdale.

Work is continuing on the Hope Restart Centre proposal, with $3 million in Commonwealth funding being pledged recently.

The centre would be operated by Odyssey House, and is seeking state government funding, with a community fundraising campaign launched in March.

There are also calls to change alcohol advertising guidelines.

The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that 32 per cent of males and nine per cent of females thought they could drink three or more drinks every day without putting their health at risk, when in reality the guidelines state that more than two standard drinks a day can increase the risk of cancer and other long-term health problems.

Research led by Cancer Council Victoria found that adding the National Health and Medical Research Council drinking guidelines to advertisements that highlight the risks of drinking alcohol could improve their effectiveness.

It found such a move could increase knowledge about safe drinking levels and encourage people to reduce their alcohol consumption.