Drug hotline: fear at-risk adults will avoid seeking treatment

A BALLARAT drug and alcohol treatment service provider holds grave concerns that at-risk adults may avoid seeking treatment due to a new statewide intake and assessment “hotline”.

The new program, which begins on September 1, will see Ballarat drug and alcohol users forced to call a 1300 number as the first step in seeking treatment including withdrawal, detox and rehabilitation.

The organisation running the new system, the Australian Community Support Organisation, will then refer people to relevant local treatment providers.

Until now, organisations like Ballarat Community Health and UnitingCare, had done their own intakes and assessments.

“We are very concerned that we won’t have the same capacity to respond in terms of treatment,” said Ballarat Community Health alcohol and other drugs and refugees team leader Claire Ryan.

“Now, with less than half the funding we used to receive, we will lose the capacity to respond to people requiring treatment.

“It is hard for people to take that first step to seek treatment and this may make it harder.”

The new model is part of a state government recommission into alcohol and other drugs. 

The state government announced in June that ACSO would run the state-wide program.

ACSO chief executive officer Karenza Louis-Smith said all service providers had to be “smarter” with the funding available. 

She said the new program would, in fact, make it easier for those seeking treatment. 

“Our job is to provide the glue that joins all of these treatment facilities together,” Ms Louis-Smith said. 

“We make the journey easier, making sure that people get help when they need it and get the right help they need.”

She said it was easier for ACSO to provide multiple drug and alcohol treatment facilities, removing the need for the person seeking treatment to do all the hard work. 

“It can be difficult to get help when you need it, but we will make it easier,” she said. 

Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge said the current system had been challenging to navigate. 

“The reforms will improve support for adults, making treatment services easier to access and seamlessly integrated with other services that people need,” Ms Wooldridge said. 

“Individuals and families in Ballarat will now have access to streamlined and centralised access to treatment services.”

patrick.byrne@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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