Drug campaigner slams WA's forced rehab law

AN ADDICTION specialist has condemned the West Australian Government's plan to allow desperate families to force ice users into involuntary rehabilitation.

The WA Government announced last week that the change to the state's mental health laws would go ahead, with Police Minister Liza Harvey saying the scheme was being trialled in New South Wales with a 75% success rate.

Ted Noffs Foundation clinical services manager Kieran Palmer says Ms Palmer is mistaken and has criticised the tough new rules, which will also allow addicts to sign themselves into forced treatment during "a moment of clarity".

"I don't know where the minister gets her information, but it's dead wrong," Mr Palmer said.

"New South Wales does have an involuntary drug and alcohol treatment program, but it's nothing like the one WA is talking about.

"She (Ms Harvey) also says 'we might be able to hold them in that contract for a number of years'. None of that is the case in New South Wales."

Only authorised medical officers can sign the paperwork to force someone into treatment in NSW, and it lasts 28 days with a possible three-month extension.

It can be enforced only if no other appropriate and less restrictive means for dealing with the person are reasonably available.

"The evaluation of the New South Wales scheme is not yet complete so we don't know what the success rate is," Mr Palmer said. "We do know that it's horribly expensive - $5.7 million a year for just 12 beds. Most experts will agree that involuntary treatment is only required in a very, very small number of cases.

"What we really need is more treatment places generally. Almost every rehab in Australia currently has waiting lists.

"WA would be much better served by investing in treatment that has been shown to work."

In a recent sentence, District Court Judge Philip McCann said WA's ice epidemic was "a national and international disgrace" and the state had the worst meth crisis in the world.

The WA Government's current budget includes a $15 million, two-year increase in Mental Health Commission funding to target ice use, as well as $5.5 million for more roadside drug testing.

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