Member for Morwell, Russell Northe has today launched his policy initiative to address what he calls “the scourge of drugs” in our community. “My initiative calls for a commitment to build a dedicated drug and alcohol residential rehabilitation facility to be built in Central Gippsland,” Mr Northe said.
“Families within the Morwell electorate have battled this issue with limited support for a very long time. It’s now time for this Government to answer my persistent calls including once again in Parliament less than two weeks ago, for a permanent facility to be established in the local area,” said Mr Northe.
“I was pleased that the State Government in its 2017/2018 State budget had committed $9.7 million to plan for and purchase three regional rehabilitation centres including one in Gippsland; however 15 months later but there have been no assurances that the Latrobe Valley or Central Gippsland will be one of the selected locations,” Mr Northe said.
“The State Governments most recent budget also recognised the challenges of drug abuse in regional communities by pledging an extra $40.6 million to fund the construction of three new 30-bed residential treatment facilities in Barwon, Gippsland and Hume.” said Mr Northe
Whilst that is a terrific start once again there is no clarity as to when and where in Gippsland this investment will occur, but it makes logical sense that it should be in the central part of Gippsland,” said Mr Northe. “Many organisations including the Latrobe Health Assembly, Latrobe City Council, Latrobe Community Health Service, Latrobe Regional Hospital and drug support agencies have all supported the call for more residential rehabilitation beds in our region”, added Mr Northe
The substance abuse issue has significant impact across the broader community; affecting emergency services, health services, as well as safety and community concerns. “Drug offences in Latrobe in 2010 recorded 255 instances, yet in 2017 they more than doubled at 624”, Mr. Northe said adding, “over 530 Latrobe Regional Hospital admissions per year are also attributed to drug and alcohol abuse issues”. The data also shows a clear link between substance abuse and family violence.
“Drug and alcohol abuse has an enormous impact on the Morwell electorate; we are losing 10 people per year – which we know of – specifically to drug related deaths, and in my view; that is ten too many” said Mr Northe, In April 2017, Latrobe has the second highest rate of fatal drug overdoses in regional Victoria, according to statistics revealed by the Coroners Court.
“This initiative is not just about addressing these statistics – it’s about supporting local people through enormous challenges, and giving them the best chance at a successful, sustainable recovery,” said Mr Northe.
Local parents, and family members are strong advocates for this initiative, and remind us that “we need to de-stigmatize addiction – this is a medical problem, not just a law and order problem. There is so much suffering – we really need to help people get well, and support them and their families along the way”, Mr Northe said.