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Protest to save outreach service

The Hearing Voices Choir, in red shirts, at the demonstration outside Federal MP Justine Elliot’s Tweed Heads office to support a mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse program.
The Hearing Voices Choir, in red shirts, at the demonstration outside Federal MP Justine Elliot’s Tweed Heads office to support a mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse program. Daily News

ABOUT 50 people turned up to a demonstration in Tweed Heads South yesterday to support a mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse support program from running out of funding.

The Mental Illness and Substance Abuse (MISA) Lifestyle Support Program, which alsooperates in Tweed Heads and Murwillumbah, is at risk of closure when Federal funding runs out in three months.

MISA supporters turned up outside Richmond MP and Federal Ageing Minister Justine Elliot’s office in Minjungbal Drive, Tweed Heads South, for a peaceful protest over the funding.

MISA is an outreach support service for people with mental health issues who are concerned about the impact of their use of drugs and alcohol on their overall health and wellbeing.

It is run by The Buttery, a Bangalow residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre.

The Buttery executive director Barry Evans said it was a valuable program many people in the region depended on.

“We’ve been trying to talk to Justine Elliot and Nicola Roxon (Federal Health Minister) foralmost 18 months now about this,” Mr Evans said.

“After us, the closest thing is in Coffs Harbour. We’re a vital service to the community.

“People are being denied a service and, if we’re not here, then they won’t have support.”

Mr Evans said he hoped theGovernment would continue to fund the program, even though the Federal funding, worth $750,000, was a one-off.

“I’m aware of that, but the community is full of people who cannot afford to lose this service,” Mr Evans said.

One member of the Tweed Heads support group, who only wanted to be named as Liz, said she would go ‘downhill’ if MISA was to close down.

“I’m bipolar and a recoveringalcoholic and there is no one else who can offer me support like MISA does,” Liz said.

“I’ve been with them since the beginning. I would be devastated if we lost them. I would go backwards in my progress.”

Ms Elliot said the funding was a one-off, non-recurrent grantallocated for a set period.

“This funding has provided The Buttery with $750,000 funding for the program. This will conclude on June 30,” she said.



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