There is a growing need for more drug and alcohol rehab services on the Northern Rivers.
There is a growing need for more drug and alcohol rehab services on the Northern Rivers.

Six-month wait to get help for alcohol, drug addiction

A GROWING number of people are making the brave decision to address drug and alcohol addictions, only to be turned away because of a lack of services.

A new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed more people were reaching out for drug and alcohol treatment services.

On the Northern Rivers, there has been an increase in waiting times for The Buttery's treatment programs.

The Buttery reported a 22.3 per cent increase in participants in 2017-18 compared to the previous financial year.

But the organisation's chief executive, Leone Crayden, said there was still a lack of residential treatment beds.

"That is evidenced by The Buttery having a six-month waiting list,” she said.

"For the first time recently, we have seen demand outstrip capacity for some of our community day programs.

According to the 2018 Local Health Needs Community Survey by the Primary Health Network North Coast, 68 per cent of respondents in the Ballina Shire said it was difficult to access alcohol and other drug services.

The same survey also found that participants believed drug and alcohol misuse was the most serious health issue in their community, rating it above mental health and ageing issues.

"It's time for program funding to match demand and community sentiment,” Ms Crayden said.

"The lack of access to treatment programs mean people are being turned away when they are ready to make the courageous decision to recover.

"This makes no sense from a health or social perspective and certainly it makes no sense economically.”

Alcohol remained the primary drug addiction being treated at The Buttery.

But the use of methamphetamine has increased drastically -- 23 per cent of clients said it was their main drug in 2018, compared to just 12 per cent in 2015.

Ms Crayden said The Buttery would be making a submission to the NSW Government's Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug 'Ice' (crystal methamphetamine).

The Buttery is also presenting its case for increased treatment services at the next Lismore City Council Social Justice Crime Prevention Committee meeting.

"Just last week doctors from the US trained our staff in a PTSD treatment program called COPE so that we can treat not only substance use disorder but PTSD as well, because we know the two issues are so interconnected,” Ms Crayden said.

"The Buttery is committed to doing everything it can to ensure that alcohol and drug issues are recognised as the critical health issue it is for this area, and that it be funded accordingly.”



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