Education is clearly the most important step but addicts need more, says MP Chris Gulaptis
Education is clearly the most important step but addicts need more, says MP Chris Gulaptis Martin Sykes

$1.2 million injection to help Northern Rivers ice addicts

GRAFTON will get a cut of a $1.2 million government injection into stimulant treatments services to help stem the flow of ice in the Northern Rivers.

On Sunday, the state government announced $7 million would be invested in new services based in Western Sydney, Illawarra Shoalhaven, Mid North Coast and Northern NSW, as well as adding extra capacity to the existing services at St Vincent's Hospital and Newcastle.

Grafton, Lismore, Casino and Tweed and the surrounding areas were named as areas of interest within the Northern Rivers region.

While there are limited details as yet, it is understood the services will have a focus on improving pathways of care for people who are using crystal methamphetamine, with a priority focus on providing culturally sensitive care for Aboriginal people.

They will provide advice and expertise to local hospitals, Aboriginal Medical Services and other health services.

A further $4 million will go towards supporting NGOs in rural and regional communities to enhance the local response to ice.

Assistant Minister for Health Pru Goward said the increased investment in the NGO sector would mean more co-ordinated, better targeted care for users once they left specialist treatment services to help reduce the chances of them ending back in emergency departments.

Over the past six years there has been a seven-fold increase in emergency department presentations where the use of methamphetamines, including ice, was a factor

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said the funding was a good start to dealing with the problem in a strategic way which collaborates with other states.

"I'm really pleased that it's included $1.2 million for the Northern Rivers," he said.

"It's not so much a question of having something in Grafton; it's a question of being able to deal with the spread of ice in the Northern Rivers as a whole. This drug, from what I understand, is far worse than heroine and cocaine and from what the police have been telling me it literally fries the brain.

"It's really critical that we get in early in this whole process. Education is clearly the most important factor but we can't rule out all those people who are already addicted.

"The focus is to target high risks groups such as young women, pregnant women, and members of the Aboriginal community, and we do have a proportion of those high-risk target groups here."

Yamba Chamber of Commerce president and Clarence Valley councillor Sue Hughes said she thought it was fantastic the region had been recognised by the government as one in need.

"I welcome it absolutely, and whether it's in Yamba, Maclean or Grafton it doesn't matter, as long as it's in the valley," she said.

Last month, the business chamber president hosted an information session on the far-reaching effects of crystal methamphetamine in the Clarence Valley at Yamba.

Anyone concerned about how ice is affecting themselves or a loved one are encouraged to seek help by speaking with a GP, calling the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on (02) 9361 8000 (metro) 1800 422 599 (regional/rural) or getting further information from www.yourroom.com.au



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