Drug outreach worker welcomes report on ice epidemic, calls for education programsE

EXPERIENCED: Ballarat UnitingCare drug and alcohol program manager Peter Cranage has welcomed the findings of the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into ice. PICTURE: KATE HEALY

EXPERIENCED: Ballarat UnitingCare drug and alcohol program manager Peter Cranage has welcomed the findings of the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into ice. PICTURE: KATE HEALY

A BALLARAT drug outreach worker has welcomed the recommendations of a government panel report to tackle Victoria's soaring methamphetamine epidemic.

The law reform, drugs and crime prevention committee's 900-page report, released on Wednesday, called for 50 recommendations to be implemented across the state to combat the issue.

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Many of the recommendations focused on tackling the rising issue in regional areas.

The report revealed there was a pressing need for preventative and harm reduction programs in regional areas and highlighted the need for more withdrawal beds and better-resourced outpatient services to improve responses to methamphetamine use.

UnitingCare Ballarat alcohol and other drug program manager Peter Cranage said there also needed to be mandatory education programs on drugs use, particularly the destructive effects of ice, included in schools across the state.

He told The Courier he knew of schools in the Ballarat region where staff were struggling to control the aggressive behaviour of adolescents who were under the influence of ice.

He added that there were also daily risks to the safety of welfare workers and counsellors who worked firsthand with people using ice.

"Ice is a terrible drug," Mr Cranage said.

"It has the ability to completely change a person and the impact on that person and their family is devastating.

"It is because it is so readily accessible that you often hear about the effects of ice on a person, but nobody talks about the long-term effects this drug can have on a person."

Last year, Mr Cranage told the inquiry that ice use was rampant in Ballarat.

He said there were young people aged 14 to 16 years old using the drug in Ballarat, but the largest group using the drug were 25 to 35-year-olds.

Mr Cranage said on Wednesday that tobacco, cannabis and alcohol continued to be the drugs most used by his clients.

He said the difficulty for drugs like ice was that current outreach services and rehabilitation facilities were not equipped to deal with the often aggressive and difficult withdrawal process.

"We need to start looking at servicing those clients in a different way," he said.

"Often they can be wasted for up to three days and current services are simply not catering for that demand, so we need to expand those services and cater them to this particular drug."

He said while the report was a step in the right direction, there was still a long way to go and called for a holistic approach which incorporated all levels of government, police, emergency services and welfare agencies.

"It's an extremely thorough and informative report which highlights a lot of the core issues we are seeing right across the board," Mr Cranage said.

"Now we need to take those finding and implement action to prevent and reduce the harm caused."

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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