Jail instead of rehab: The big problem with our system
A LISMORE councillor has called on a greater volume and greater equity of rehabilitation services.
Cr Eddie Lloyd, who is chair of the council's new Social Justice and Crime Prevention Committee, gave evidence to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the provision of drug rehabilitation services in regional NSW at its Lismore hearing last week.
Cr Lloyd said more rehabilitation beds, a Drug Court, Koori Court and the reintroduction of the Life on Track intervention program, which ceased operating at the end of 2016, would all go a long way to addressing drug-related issues.
While this would be costly to establish, she said this would more than pay off in the years to come.
"In the long run they're much cheaper because we have less people going to jail and jails are very expensive," Cr Lloyd said.
She said it was "inequitable" that a person's eligibility to face a drug court relied so heavily on where they live.
For many in regional NSW, she said this would mean going to jail rather than rehab.
With a disproportionate number of Aboriginal people being incarcerated, she said a Koori Court would provide an environment that was "less intimidating than western courts", and was more "culturally appropriate and sensitive".
Cr Lloyd said those presenting to the Parliamentary Inquiry's hearing across regional areas were "on the same page" in terms of identifying a need for more rehab and intervention opportunities.
"There's no rehabilitation where women can go with their children," she said.
"They're unlikely to go to treatment because they'll be separated from their children.
"We know there are young people... who have got substance abuse issues.
"Everyone deserves the opportunity for rehabilitation, whether you're 15 or 45.
"We just need to make sure that there's opportunities for everybody."
At the hearing, Cr Lloyd asked for alcohol addiction to be classed as eligible alongside illicit drugs under the Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment program.
"I asked for the expansion of that program to include alcohol as well," Cr Lloyd said.
She was hopeful the inquiry would result in a suite of recommendations and that these would be adopted on a bipartisan basis.
The inquiry also held a hearing in Grafton last week, and Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Wayne Jones was among those who gave evidence.
Mr Jones told the committee he believed involuntary rehabilitation was less effective than treatment the patient was willingly taking part in.
"If people are not ready or willing to change it is my experience, over many years, that the results are not great," Mr Jones said.
The committee has also heard of a disconnect between services, and patients would sometimes not have a rehab bed available after detoxification.
In the Grafton hearing, committee member Dr Peter Phelps said this had been repeatedly raised.
"One of the things that the Committee has come across a number of times is the disconnect between detox and rehab and the unfortunate consequence of falling back after detox due to a lack of rehab facilities," Dr Phelps said.