Ice users have to leave Ballarat to get clean

Ballarat Community Health chief executive officer Robyn Reeves at a recent inquiry into the drug ice. PICTURE: KATE HEALY
Ballarat Community Health chief executive officer Robyn Reeves at a recent inquiry into the drug ice. PICTURE: KATE HEALY

DESPERATE drug and alcohol users are travelling hundreds of kilometres to get clean, with no residential withdrawal beds available in Ballarat.

The severe shortage means drug users, including hundreds on ice, are forced on already full waiting lists for treatment at centres in Melbourne and Geelong. 


The one bed which services the whole Grampians region, from Bacchus Marsh to the South Australian border, is at the Bacchus Marsh and Melton Regional Hospital.

Ballarat Community Health chief executive officer Robyn Reeves said the lack of residential withdrawal treatments had been an issue in the region for years.

"It is definitely not ideal and the state government has been aware of it for some time," Ms Reeves said. 

"Here in Ballarat we do run home-based withdrawal programs, but often they're only suitable for a small number of people."

Ms Reeves said withdrawing from ice, which could be "more complex" than alcohol and other drugs, often required medical supervision. 

"For that, clients from the Grampians region are forced to go to other parts of the state," Ms Reeve said. 

"It is really difficult for clients in this region, because they have to leave their home, they have to leave their familiar areas and go away to seek treatment.

"It is during those withdrawal periods that they need that home base."

The state government announced $34 million in funding in April to address this issue. 

Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge said the funding would "make a very significant difference across the state", in particular the Grampians region. 

"These areas have been chosen because historically there has been an under-investment in drug and alcohol treatment services in these areas," she said at the time. 

The only residential drug withdrawal treatment centre in Ballarat is Tabor House, which caters for those aged 12 to 21 years.

"THERE is hope and this evil drug can be controlled."

Those are the words of Ballarat mother Wendy*, who's son was last year in the grips of a serious ice addiction. 

He has now been clean for eight months and his mother couldn't be prouder. 

"He's just a different man... he's finally back to his old self," Wendy said this week.

"To see the change in him is truly remarkable."

Wendy said her son, who at his worst went for days on end without food or sleep while using ice, wanted to help himself. 

"And that's what it takes, they need to want to get better," she said. 

"If they don't want to do it, well it's never going to work."

She said her son gave up cold turkey and turned to family members for support. 

"We were lucky in that that worked for him," she said. 

"We were lucky because he was strong. But you can get off this drug and people need to believe that."

Speaking of her son's ice use last year, a heartbroken Wendy said it had been painful to see one of her own "trapped" in the drug's vortex. 

"He was so violent, so unforgiving, so irrational, very scary and unpredictable," she said. 

"But now he's back to himself. He's taking time to be with family and look after them.

"I don't think he'll ever go back to it."

* Wendy is not her real name.



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