Youth service reports huge surge in drug cases

WHEN people start to use ice, “everything else goes out the window,” a Warrnambool youth worker says.

Peter Flanagan, from Brophy Family and Youth Services, told a parliamentary inquiry in Warrnambool this week that getting a supply of ice “becomes the most important thing” to users.

Mr Flanagan, the team leader for Brophy’s youth homelessness program, said a lot of young people became drug dealers to fund their ice habit. Brophy’s chief executive Francis Broekman also told the state parliamentary inquiry into methamphetamine, or ice as it is commonly known, the scourge had spread quickly in the south-west.

Eighteen months ago, only a handful of Brophy’s clients had used ice, Mr Broekman said.

But since then, 68 of the 361 clients involved in Brophy programs, or 19 per cent, were using or had used ice, he said.

“It’s very important for us as an organisation to grapple with it, to help them (ice users) and their families,” Mr Broekman said. Ice had a rapid detrimental impact on people who used it regularly and it was difficult to treat, he said.

“When kids are hooked, their health deteriorates quickly. They get a lot of anxiety, there is a lot of violent behaviour. They use cannabis to mellow that out.”

Users accumulated drug debts and disengaged with community services, Mr Broekman said.

“Relationships become conflictual. The extreme effects happen very quickly.”

Brophy staff had been threatened with violence by ice users if their needs were not met, he said. 

Ice users came “from all walks of life” and isolation, boredom and unemployment were among the reasons why they started.

“It is the effect of disadvantage, it is not the cause,” Mr Broekman said.

He said there was a shortage of places where people could withdraw from using ice — Geelong being the nearest. 

Mr Flanagan said there could also be a wait of several months to be able to access those services. “But when people are willing to change, there is the ability to work quickly,” Mr Flanagan said.

Mr Broekman said the ice problem was too big an issue for one agency alone to deal with. A collective response involving a range of agencies from schools to community services and police needed to be developed to discourage people from using the drug, he said.

“We need to build a rapid response capacity.

“We need to train all sectors to deliver those responses.”

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