KIDS as young as nine are becoming trapped in a long-entrenched cycle of substance abuse in the Northern Rivers, a leading rehabilitation organisation has revealed.
The emergence of the methamphetamines, known as ice, in the past decade has accelerated drug abuse around the region according to Krystian Gruft, drug and alcohol outreach manager at The Buttery at Binna Burra.
Steps to reverse the cycle were progressed today in State Parliament when Assistant Heath Minister Pru Goward met with numerous health experts and young people who have experienced addiction.
Ms Goward said "the forum is an important step to ensure services are targeted and help young people to overcome their addiction."
The State Government is investing $16 million to develop new youth detox and treatment services in regional NSW as part of a $75 million Drug Package.
Ms Goward said the "government is committed to supporting young people in overcoming their addiction at all stages of their treatment", citing an additional $12 million allocated for community treatment and aftercare among other measures.
The localisation of services comes as great news to Mr Gruft, who said treating children in their home towns is more beneficial than referring them to the cities.
"Its money well spent if it's providing treatment for young people before they get into long, established addiction patterns where it's much harder to come out of," Mr Gruft said.
"If they can get them earlier in the piece, it can save the taxpayer a lot of money."
The Buttery's residential program manager, Trent Rees works with people fighting drug and alcohol dependence later in life.
He's glad to see State funding invested to help people living regionally combat the issue earlier in life.
"Anything that is going towards accessing children is in my opinion vital because these are the points in time where a lot of people come to see us down the track," Mr Rees said.
While Mr Gruft and Mr Rees respect recent efforts to better support children with addiction, the pair questioned the recurrence of the funding to ensure children can get "well rounded" support from identifying the issue and getting back on track.
Mr Rees said a "big picture" approach must adopted and challenged the State Government to implement long-term policy beyond the end of their terms.
"It (funding for young people) sounds like a lot of money but in the grand scheme of things its so not, it's just not going to go very far at all," Mr Rees said.
"If it's not recurrent then it ends and you don't get to continue that work (with the kids).
"If we don't change things at the home level then this issue just continues its an ongoing fight."
Based on the numerous adults he's worked with over the years, Mr Rees said detox programs must be bolstered with other treatment to address the source of the addiction.
"They (Mr Rees' clients) have talked about having done detox 10-12 times because it not addressing the underlying issues as to why you use drugs or alcohol," Mr Rees said.