• The Vic govt announced more beds and Indigenous health workers as part of an $81 million investment in Victoria's battle against the scourge of the drug ice. (AAP)Source: AAP
In a bid to tackle the drug ice, the Victorian state government announced nearly 100 new rehabilitation beds will open, addict support services will expand and an increase in Indigenous health workers.
By
Laura Morelli

28 Apr 2017 - 6:13 PM  UPDATED 1 May 2017 - 1:51 PM

Yorta Yorta woman, Deanne Turner, from Shepparton Victoria works as the Ice pilot care and recovery worker for Ngwala Willumbong. Ngwala is Pitjantjatjara for "Dry Place".

Deanne works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities struggling with drug addictions and from her experience she says ice is by far the most damaging. 

“I manage clients, many of whom use ice, which from my experience is the worst drug because people get heavily addicted to it and can’t get off it.”

“It ruins the users’ life, their family’s life. It literally destroys people,” she said.

“I manage clients, many of whom use ice, which from my experience is the worst drug because people get heavily addicted to it and can’t get off it.”

On Friday the Victorian state government announced that nearly 100 new rehabilitation beds will open and addict support services will expand as part of an $81 million investment in Victoria's battle against the scourge of the drug ice.

Funding will be made available from July 1 for 30 new beds in existing facilities across the state. The money will also be spent on employing 34 indigenous health workers to help Indigenous communities, which Deanne says is a great move forward.

Despite new funding, Deanne says there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are searching for help… at the moment we currently have three rehabs and they’re all full,” she explains.

“What there really needs to be are specific rehab facilities for people on ice. You see these people are hard to manage, especially with mental health, behaviour etc and at the moment, rehabs can’t deal with it."

“Aboriginal people want to deal with Aboriginal workers. They feel comfortable from a cultural perspective." 

The government wants to create up to another 60 residential beds in regional areas, with almost $10 million to be spent to buy land for centres in the Gippsland, Barwon and Hume regions.

Currently Deanne looks after 23 clients, she says she should realistically only be managing 10 but that she ‘can’t say no’ and has praised the announcement of more Indigenous health workers. 

“Look Aboriginal people only want to deal with Aboriginal workers. They feel comfortable from a cultural perspective as they get ashamed talking to non-Indigenous workers and think: ‘Well you don’t know what I’ve been through’, which is why it’s great there’s a focus on Indigenous health workers.”

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“So what we need is more trained staff in dealing with particularly ice users and their mental health issues as well as all the underlying issues. There needs to be more focussed support on the ice users.

The new funding is on top of the $100 million the state government has already spent on its Ice Action Plan.

On Friday, Premier Daniel Andrews said next Tuesday's budget would include more "strong support to provide the tailored services" for addicts.

"All too often someone may present as a family violence client needing support and assistance. The same person may need assistance with a drug and alcohol problem, with a homelessness problem, financial counselling," he said.

Deanne says she’s treated several ice addicts over time, but sooner or later she sees some of them relapse back into rehab and that’s because there’s no rehab that solely focuses on ice users.

“My client was using ice every day and I watched it tear apart her life. She was paranoid, psychotic, evicted from her house… I worked with her for 12 months, moved her to the country and eventually she got a job, and was dealing with life,” she said.

“But two weeks ago she had a death in the family and phoned me saying she lapsed. I told her it was ok because she only had a little lapse, not a relapse. Now she is fighting the strength and courage to get on her feet, back at her job and continuing to move forward.”

“I went to a SHARC program and at first I wasn’t sure about it, but if I didn’t do it I wouldn’t have stayed clean. This is because I had a lot of young people around me to support me."

With just a few days until its third budget, the Andrews government also announced on Friday it would spend $28.5 million in the next stage of treaty negotiations with the state's Indigenous people.

The money will go towards a new representative body, further consultation and a self-determination plan, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Natalie Hutchins said.

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Former ice user, Alex* started taking drugs at the age of 18. Now 22-years-old and clean for over 20 months, he says he wouldn’t have been able to stay off ice without support services.

“I was lucky enough to get into a rehab program – there were hardly any beds so I was just made it,” he said. 

“At first I was nervous about SHARC, but if I didn’t do it I wouldn’t have stayed clean. This is because I had a lot of young people around me to support me. There was also a lot of seniors around who really worked together with us. If I went back home, I would have fallen back into my old drug habits, so this program really changed my life.”

Manager of residential services at  Self Help Addiction Resource Centre, (SHARC), Bella Anderson, says despite despite much of the community commentary, she has seen first-hand evidence of drug recovery.

“What we know with people that use crystal meth is that it takes them quite  a while before they feel comfortable within themselves, their emotions are stable and thinking is clear so short term treatment whilst making a difference is not the ideal for this cohort,” she says.

“We really welcome the rehabilitation beds that the government is promising for rural areas and we hope that they also consider the transition support that people need once completing a residential rehab program.” 

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 Additional reporting AAP