Research — 01 February 2017

hospital-484848_1280A DRUG and alcohol rehabilitation centre has been forced to turn people away due to a lack of beds, while others are waiting up to eight months to access vital treatment.

It comes as new data revealed Port Phillip had the second highest rate of fatal overdoses in the state.

The data from Windana Alcohol and Drug Recovery’s St Kilda-based residential withdrawal unit also showed drug-related harm was escalating within Port Phillip.

Chief executive Anne-Maree Kaser said increased drug-use had put the centre’s services under “enormous pressure”, with some patients waiting six to eight months for residential treatment.

“The data available is of great concern as it reveals that alcohol and drug-related harms within Port Phillip are increasing however this increase in harms is not being matched by an increase in treatment attendance,” she said.

“People come to us ready to make a positive change in their life and it’s just heartbreaking to have to turn them away.”

Ms Kaser told the Leader the centre, established about 30 years ago, needed more resources to cope with the demand.

“The phone rings constantly with people wanting access (to treatment) and our staff try and support them with counselling appointments and other services but we have to explain there’s a waitlist,” she said.

“We’ve even had to close our books and stop accepting referrals at the statewide adult residential rehabilitation service (in Maryknoll) due to high levels of demand.”

Ms Kaser said for every $1 invested in drug and alcohol treatment it would ultimately save much more money down the track in terms of ambulance and police call-outs and hospital visits.

“We know our model works; our data shows that in the 12 months after treatment people are less likely to present at emergency rooms etc, so through a purely fiscal lens the benefits (of the service) are huge.

“We just need to have the capacity to support all the people who are in need of our help at various stages of their life.”

The centre provided treatment to more than 2000 people a year but there was “much greater demand than our current capacity”, Ms Kaser said.

“And for every person we admit, that’s just the tip of the iceberg — we know there are many more people out there who don’t get access to treatment,” she said.

Windana’s data also showed fatal overdose, ambulance attendance, hospitalisations and emergency room presentations were higher in Port Phillip when compared to the state average.

The number of people accessing the service to kick their ice addiction had also tripled at the centre.

 “With the increase in methamphetamine presentations and enduring broader alcohol and other drug presentations resulting in a more challenging treatment environment,” Ms Kaser said.

“More resources are necessary if we are going to reduce the number of … health service attendance, as well as fatal overdose, within Port Phillip.”

The centre, on Alma Rd, had space to add a further 10 beds for in-house withdrawal patients if funding could be sourced, Ms Kaser said.

“We would welcome the opportunity to increase our treatment facilities; we just try really hard to help people stay safe and reduce the risk to the community,” she said.

This piece was originally published on ‘Leader Community News’, on January 13, 2017.


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