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MP in rehab push

Monday, 30th September, 2019

Barwon MP Roy Butler Barwon MP Roy Butler

By Callum Marshall

Local state MP Roy Butler has called on the state government to establish more residential rehabilitation centres across the Far West.

In a wide-ranging discussion with the BDT, Mr Butler talked about the benefits of rehab centres and his discussions with state and federal MPs about the need for them across the region, alongside other issues.

He noted that there were only 26 rehab beds for the entire electorate of Barwon.

“I think that (Inquiry) will provide government with all the evidence it needs to realise there’s definitely a need for more rehab beds,” he said.

“Talking to people around the electorate, they tell you they’re all aware there’s an increase in drug use.

“61 per cent increase in use and possession over a two year period (according to BOCSAR statistics.) That’s pretty frightening stuff.”

He said getting someone into treatment at the right time for drug and alcohol addiction was critical. “I worked in drug and alcohol in the prisons and in the community for almost five years,” said Mr Butler.

“I know that when somebody does want to change their behaviour, there’s a window of opportunity to get them into treatment.

“If you don’t get them into treatment when that window of opportunity is open they’ll probably go back to what they’re doing until that window opens up again.”

In the Barwon electorate, there are only two residential rehabilitation centres, the Wiimpatja Healing Centre 70kms from Wentworth and Orana Haven at Brewarrina.

He said the issue of a nearby rehabilitation centre was brought up a lot within his Broken Hill electorate office, where staff received frequent calls from people about it.

“People obviously are aware there’s an issue, and the distances involved in accessing rehab is so great that people are looking for something that’s a little bit more local than sending people halfway across the state,” he said.

Mr Butler’s comments also follow the Commission of Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’s public enquiries in Broken Hill in July, where several local health and drug and alcohol experts spoke about the need for a local rehab centre.

With the Commission of Inquiry hearing from local experts that 17 children were removed from homes around Broken Hill from January 1, 2018, to May 15, 2019 because of ice, Mr Butler said he’d also brought up the issue with the relevant government Minister last month.

“We asked a question for the Minister responsible for Family and Community Services (Gareth Ward) about the number of children who’ve been removed from their family and placed into care where drugs were a factor,” he said.

“It all helps to form the picture that drugs, which we know destroys individuals’ lives, destroys families’ lives as well.

“Problematic drug use is something that occurs at all levels of society, it’s not something that’s just people from a low socio-economic background, this happens to all sorts of people.”

Another key discussion point, he said, was looking to stop the cycle of reoffending that plagues some individuals with drug and alcohol problems, a problem Mr Butler said he was acutely aware of during his past work within Corrective Services.

“I can’t count the number of people who I saw leave a correctional environment, go straight back into the community and straight back into what they were doing before they came into custody,” said Mr Butler.

“And three months later the same faces ... come in the door except that they’ve lost about 20 kilos and they had skin problems from the crap that they were putting into their bodies.

“So we’ve got to get away from that revolving door of corrections.

“All the international data shows (that) if you take somebody who’s a low-level offender and put them in custody almost every time they’ll come out more likely to reoffend but reoffend more seriously.

“And I know that Minister (Anthony) Roberts is keen to have a programmed approach with corrections which is one of the reasons they’ve spent $3.8 billion and created a stack more beds because they want to get people into programs that are seen to be effective in reducing recidivism and offending.

“As opposed to just locking them up for a period of time and then letting them out and having them come back.”

He said he’d also spoken to local federal MP Mark Coulton about the issue.

“Any rehab that’s run out West is more than likely going to be run by a non-government organisation, not by government,” said Mr Butler.

“So what I’ve done is I’ve spoken to Mark Coulton as the federal member, because he also has a regional health portfolio.

“I’ve spoken to him about what level of support he thinks that he could obtain federally for this.

“Certainly he agrees there’s a need, he agrees that it’s something that’s a gap in what we’ve got at the moment (and) he knows that there’s an increasing problem with drug use, as most people do.”

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