Community approach needed to tackle Ballarat's ice epidemic

A HOLISTIC approach and community campaign is needed to tackle Ballarat’s ice epidemic, according to the city’s leaders.

Welfare workers, police and community leaders have voiced support for a campaign to combat the rising rate of crystal meth use. 

Their words follow the release of a government panel report to tackle Victoria’s soaring methamphetamine epidemic on Wednesday. 

The law reform, drugs and crime prevention committee’s 900-page report, released on Wednesday, made more than 50 recommendations to tackle the state’s methamphetamine crisis.

Earlier this year, Geelong embarked on an Australian-first community campaign to tackle the scourge of the drug, called Our Town’s Ice Fight: Geelong.

The  collaborative approach brings together police, government agencies, health and welfare workers and community leaders to address the ice issue, which is fast proving to be the worst drug crisis the region has seen.

The name symbolises the fight that users face once addicted to the drug.

Ballarat Acting Superintendent Paul Ross backed the concept for Ballarat as a way to bring together all levels of the community to tackle drug use in the city.

He said police were closely examining the campaign in Geelong and the idea was under serious consideration for Ballarat.

“It is a great initiative and Geelong has had real traction from it,” he said. 

“We need to work together to have a collective impact and the grassroots drivers behind these campaigns are key community leaders.”

He said similar forums had already been earmarked for Warrnambool and other regional towns. 

Ballarat drug and alcohol counsellor Stuart Fenton said there was a need for a community discussion on the core risk factors that were behind the drug use, including mental health and social issues.

Mr Fenton said there was also a dire shortage of rehabilitation facilities for people who were wanting to kick their addiction, with some people waiting weeks or even months to get a bed at a rehabilitation centre. He said he was often forced to send many of his patients to New South Wales rehabilitation facilities. 

Committee for Ballarat chief executive officer John Kilgour also threw his support behind the idea and said he would welcome a collective forum on the issue.

“From our perspective, ice and the use of drugs is a major community issue,” Mr Kilgour said.“Any initiative that brings this issue into the spotlight and engages key stakeholders including youth, local law enforcement, community groups and socially disadvantaged people who may be more at risk of drug use is something to be applauded.”

He said there needed to be more support for drug addicts and their families and clear pathways to those services so people knew where to go when they needed help.

“Having pathways of support is absolutely crucial people need to understand how to access support,” he said.

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Ballarat’s community leaders have called for a campaign to tackle the city’s ice epidemic.

Ballarat’s community leaders have called for a campaign to tackle the city’s ice epidemic.

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