St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney has welcomed the release of the Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug “Ice” and has called on the NSW Government to follow through on its recommendations, particularly those related to greater funding for treatment services, the development of a whole-of-government NSW alcohol and other drugs policy, and drug law reform that promotes access to care.
St Vincent’s – one of the state's chief alcohol and other drug treatment and research facilities* – said the Special Commission had revealed the difficulties facing NSW’s alcohol and other drugs treatment service system.
“Tens of thousands of people in NSW can’t get the help they need from treatment services – not just for methamphetamine use, but for all alcohol and other drug issues – because the services either aren’t available or the waiting lists are too long,” said Professor Nadine Ezard, Clinical Director, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney’s Drug and Alcohol Unit.
“The situation is at its worst in regional and rural areas. For example, we know people in remote parts are 2.5 times more likely to use methamphetamines.
“We fully support the Special Commission’s recommendations that NSW needs a whole-of-government alcohol and other drugs policy – and one that uses population-based modelling, which will show us where in the state treatment services are most needed, the type that are needed, and how much funding they require.
“The Government must then commit to increasing funding to resourcing the new plan and addressing statewide unmet need for treatment services, particularly in rural and regional areas.
“They must also commit to increasing investment in the alcohol and other drugs treatment sector’s workforce and infrastructure so they have the capacity to meet demand.
“The desperate stories we heard from the Special Commission – particularly from rural and regional areas – about people being unable to get the help they need were extremely disturbing.
“The longer people wait for the help they need, the greater the damage, the higher the increased health costs, and the harder peoples’ problems are to treat.
“People struggling with alcohol and other drug dependence in NSW should be able to get the help they need, when they need it, where they need it.
“Increased funding is extremely important, but poor planning is just as much an issue. Services are unevenly distributed, crisis-oriented, and there can be poor integration with other clinical and social programs, with often no easy access point for help.
“The NSW Government must also make the legislative changes needed to prioritise the health and well-being of people who use drugs – not their punishment. Criminalising people only increases the harms associated with their drug use.
“As the Commissioner has said in his report: ‘recognising illicit drug use as a health and social problem rather than a criminal justice issue is a fundamental first step’,” said Professor Ezard.
Media contact: David Faktor 0405 497 510
*St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney accounts for 18% of all Sydney metro alcohol and other drug patient separations, and 7% of NSW’s. The proportion of alcohol- and drug-attributed emergency department presentations at St Vincent’s Sydney is approximately three times the NSW average.