Despite new rehabilitation facilities, more needs to be done to help people with drug and alcohol related issues in Ballarat.
The closest adult withdrawal, or detox, facilities, are in Bendigo, Geelong, and Melbourne.
The Windana Drug and Alcohol Recovery treatment community, in Eureka, opened in October, and is only able to help people once they have detoxed.
However, once they find a bed - this residential facility will have 20 - a proven, peer-led approach guides people to recovery.
The state-sponsored facility is the first of its kind in western Victoria, though another was announced yesterday, to be built in the Barwon region, and is part of the state government’s “multi-faceted” approach to dealing with substance abuse.
For Leo, who turns 26 on Friday, Windana’s “therapeutic community” approach turned his life around.
“In 2014, my mental health had taken a rapid decline .. I didn’t see much of a future for myself, and I’d never really considered the option of rehab,” he explained.
“I did it not knowing what to expect, I thought there might be a pool there.”
Leo went to Windana’s other regional facility, in Maryknoll near Pakenham.
He stayed for eight months, and after getting back on his feet, is studying to help others - he’ll begin a Bachelor of Social Work later this year.
Having a residential treatment centre in the middle of Ballarat will help people who are struggling with getting back to the real world, he added.
“It’s social learning and role modelling that’s really helpful in that kind of environment,” he said.
“It’s changed my life, it’s changed my family, it’s changed my friends, my workplaces, even cafes and restaurants, wherever I go out.
“In the past it was like a cyclone had gone through - but with just one person making a little bit of change, the ripple effect is unbelievable.”
Windana’s Grampians service manager Carly Johnson said she hoped more community links would be developed as the centre became fully operational - this is a key part of helping people as they transition out of the centre.
“It’s about learning to able to sit with discomfort and manage emotions, and using people around you to help navigate the world,” she said.
“We hope to have people out volunteering, or doing paid work (within the year).”
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