South Australians in remote areas are missing out on drug and alcohol rehabilitation services because there is no-one to refer them, health workers have said.
The state’s second Aboriginal-specific rehabilitation centre, Footsteps, opened in Port Augusta last November and has since accommodated 12 clients.
SA Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council director Scott Wilson said the number would be higher if more remote services were in place.
“One of the major barriers for them coming further into the rehab is we can’t get a mental health assessment,” he said.
“I’ve heard in some of the remote communities they’re lucky to see a psychologist every six months.
“You can’t wait six months because you’ll just go back to the same old drinking.”
Mr Wilson said a person could not be referred to rehabilitation without a mental health assessment.
He said that meant people in remote areas were missing out on services they could otherwise receive.
“What we would hope is maybe governments should be looking at setting up some sort of mobile mental health team that can travel to these communities,” Mr Wilson said.
“And actually then work with those people and try to sort of plug them into the right services within that region.”
Footsteps manager Sue-Anne Morley said there had been many success stories in the centre’s short life.
“Out of those [clients] that have completed, most have gone on to get jobs, continued their studies that they, sort of, started here,” she said.
“Some we’ve found out have abstained completely, others who have relapsed haven’t relapsed as much.”
She said half of Footsteps 12 clients had been abusing the drug ice.
“We’re getting a lot of clients coming in with complex mental health issues and really people need support before they come in,” Ms Morley said.
“There’s a lot of people out there who don’t know how to access the rehab or even that the rehab exists.
“We need more support workers out there, from the mental health side of things and from the alcohol and drug side.”
Rehabilitation client taking new steps
Two months ago Trent Mudge could not go a day without a drink.
“I just woke up one morning and realised that I needed help,” he said.
Since then he has received help from Footsteps and is studying so he can help others who are struggling with substance abuse.
“It’s been nine-and-a-half weeks since I’ve actually had a drink and I’m feeling better for it every day,” he said.
“I found it very difficult, very hard and if there’s one way I can help one person I’d be really happy.
“Whether it’s youth, teaching, community service, or even to become a drug and alcohol councillor.”
This article first appeared on ‘ABC’ on 20 June 2016.