A recovered alcoholic says drug addicts are falling through the cracks in Ballarat with a dire lack of rehabilitation facilities to treat their complex needs.
Russell Firth, 72, has been sober for 42 years after beginning a 12-step recovery program at the age of 30.
He is pushing for a detox unit so people seeking treatment for their addiction can access appropriate support.
“All alcoholics have a disease which is centred in our minds, the alcohol is the trigger for compulsion and you have to treat that wholly,” he said.
“If we don’t get down to the causes and the conditions, we’re not going to treat it… and if we don’t have the resources or facilities to allow people to get help our hands are tied.”
The only withdrawal service available in Ballarat is UnitingCare’s Tabor House which caters for people across the state aged between 12 and 25.
But it only has four beds.
Mental health, alcohol and drug services manager Sean Duffy said the service was being inundated by young people in their mid teens.
About 50 per cent are addicted to cannabis, 50 per cent addicted to ice, he said. Some of the most vulnerable addicts used both.
“It’s a very impressionable and high risk category for development of mental illness and other medical conditions,” he said.
“But the feedback from our clients is that there is a need for a residential service in Ballarat for adults… it is desperately needed.”
Mr Duffy said funding was required to run such a service, but to date none had been allocated.
Clinical psychotherapist and counsellor for Beyond Addiction Stuart Fenton said Victoria was “grossly under-resourced” in providing rehabilitation beds in the public sector.
“I work in a private rehab and parents are forking out $11,000 for 30-days of treatment for their ice-addicted kids – the lengths that parents are going to for their kids to get clean is sad and astounding,” he said.
“The overarching approach to drug addiction in Australia is harm reduction, which is done through community health centres and counselling.
“But addicts require abstinence, and to achieve abstinence a person has to go into a residential long-term setting with a 12-step angle.”
Mr Firth said society was sick of hearing about drug and alcohol-fuelled violence, but there was a way forward.
“To see people ripped apart but then put back together is an absolute miracle,” he said.