Rehab centre campaign strengthens daily

The south-west community should be commended for its vital work in pushing to establish a residential rehabilitation centre in Warrnambool.

The Lookout project, driven by Western Region Alcohol and Drug centre and a volunteer steering committee, has won considerable community support so far. The community fundraising campaign – $515,000 in 10 weeks towards a $605,000 target, speaks volumes. That is gold when it comes to convincing the state government it needs to stump up an estimated $1.1million to fund ongoing operating costs.

Several events this week again highlighted the importance of establishing the proposed 20-bed residential rehabilitation centre.

Alcohol has consistently been the biggest substance issue across the region. Despite a greater emphasis on reducing bringe drinking through youth education and restricted serving practices, alcohol abuse remains rife. Warrnambool police described alcohol consumption as "over the top” after two weekend incidents where they had to drag drunk men asleep on roadways to safety.

“They’re that drunk they can’t walk home safely,” Sergeant Jason Dance said.

On Tuesday an ice user wielding a knife held up two Warrnambool businesses in broad daylight.

Alcohol and drugs are a major problem in most communities but the robbery represented a significant escalation in drug-fuelled crime for a city regarded widely as safe.

On Thursday, a county court judge labelled the transfer system of prisoners a “shambles” after a man he was due to sentence was not transported to the city for his hearing. Warrnambool’s police cells, which have the capacity to house 10 prisoners, were full, delaying the case and leaving the man, who has already served 599 days in custody, waiting for his judgement day.

As much as we want to, we cannot continue to lock up offenders and throw away the key. Our prisons are bursting at the seams, police cells are increasingly becoming satellite jails. With drugs and alcohol major contributors to crime, we need to re-think our approach. Preventative education is paramout but for those already in a cycle of drug and or alcohol addiction, we need residential rehabilitation services close to home.

That’s why we need the wave of community support to continue flowing. We need to make the strongest case possible.