An increase in the abuse of prescription medicine witnessed by the Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre (WRAD) reflected a statewide trend, according to its director Geoff Soma.
He said most recent drug-related deaths had involved prescription medicine.
Mr Soma’s comments followed an increased demand for WRAD’S services during 2011-12, during which more than 2500 clients were seen across its general practice, clinical services and needle syringe program.
He attributed the increased demand mainly to better referral pathways between services and better promotion of services.
Mr Soma said alcohol abuse remained the number one reason for people using WRAD’s services. Thirty-three per cent of people attending WRAD during the last financial year had sought support for an alcohol problem.
Cannabis and methamphetamine-like substances also created harm at a significant level and the addition of pharmacotherapy client statistics in reporting figures led to a marked increase in cases involving heroin.
Pharmacotherapy includes methadone programs that help people give up injecting drugs such as heroin.
Mr Soma said the use of WRAD’s methadone programs had increased by about 10 per cent in the past three months.
He said he hoped the increase was due to better links between WRAD’s services.
More than 30 per cent of WRAD’s clients were aged 25-34, while the 35-44 age group was the second biggest group.
Fifty per cent of clients were unemployed. Less than 30 per cent reported having been employed during the period and the remainder were either students or engaged in home duties.
Mr Soma said collaboration and joint health promotion campaigns with South West Healthcare Psychiatric Services, Turning Point, Community South West and other agencies had ensured WRAD was meeting the needs of clients.
“Clients had access to a range of services including counselling, supported accommodation, home-based withdrawal, medical services and the mental health nurse incentive program,” he said.
“Referrals to other agencies locally and in the metropolitan region provided a continuum of care for WRAD clients.” Mr Soma said one of the highlights of the year was a $100,000 donation from Hamilton philanthropist Geoff Handbury.
“We are particularly thankful for Geoff Handbury’s ongoing support which has enabled us to offer a range of programs to meet client needs where government funding does not cover all the gaps.”
WRAD chairwoman Helen Taylor said 2011-12 “has been challenging, reflecting the tighter economic times and changes with demands placed upon not for profit organisations”.
Ms Taylor said the WRAD general medical practice, which provides bulk billing, had received more patients during the year.
“Initially people have used the general practice as an emergency appointment but we are now beginning to see return clients,” she said.