THERE are no residential rehab services in the south-west for people with drug and alcohol addictions and the wait for Melbourne services can be as much as three months.
Those on the waiting lists risk incarceration and further harm, according to the head of the Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre, Geoff Soma.
Mr Soma said the reality was there were no residential rehabilitation services for drug and alcohol treatment in the south-west.
He said residential rehabilitation services were for people who required longer term assistance and if someone recognised they needed this type of rehabilitation there was a very small window of opportunity to work with.
“This is something which everyone should be jumping up and down about,” he said.
“People become at risk of incarceration and doing further damage. In some cases people die while they are on the waiting lists. The facts are more needs to be done.”
Mr Soma said if residential rehabilitation services could not be provided in regional areas then there needed to be more beds in metro areas so people could be referred appropriately, rather than waiting three months.
Glenelg-Southern Grampians Drug Treatment Service manager Bev McIlroy echoed Mr Soma and said when people with drug and alcohol addictions didn’t get appropriate and timely treatment, it was likely their substance abuse increased and the harmful effects escalated.
Ms McIlroy said she had a client who a magistrate had ordered be put in a residential environment. “We were instructed to find one and we couldn’t,” she said.
Ms McIlroy said the client’s mother was forced to pay thousands of dollars for a private residential rehabilitation service. “In terms of a rural setting, we’ve got nothing,” she said.
According to Sam Biondo, the executive officer of the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association, people at court will refer to residential rehabilitation are sometimes jailed because the waiting lists are too long. “Jail is probably the worst place someone could be sent to,” he said.
Mr Biondo said more money needed to be invested in community-based treatment and rehabilitation services but instead more money was being poured into prisons. “There is much more considerable cost benefit to the community to invest in residential rehabilitation services,” he said.
Odyssey House CEO and psychologist Stefan Gruenert said single males faced a three-month wait to access services but that number also fluctuated. “When it comes to the demand it exceeds the capacity to deliver,” he said.
He said the vast majority of women and a significant number of men were in prison were there because of drug and alcohol-related issues.
Dr Gruenert said it was hoped a single-bed register, which is being developed, would help give a more accurate indication of how many people were waiting to access treatment.
“At the moment we don’t have a single-bed register of all beds around the state,” he said. “So the same person could be on multiple lists.”