THE shortage of drug rehabilitation services across the state has been acknowledged by the State Coalition Government, who have promised a new 30-bed, $36M facility for the community if elected in November.
The centre would be built as one of five new rehabilitation centres, with others planned for Frankston, Mildura, the Latrobe Valley, and metropolitan Melbourne.
Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy joined Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell, Liberal candidate Cheryl Hammer and Nationals candidate Kim O’Keeffe to announce the pledge.
Ms Kealy said the pandemic has worsened mental health outcomes as well as access to support.
“As a result, many Victorians have turned to drugs [and alcohol] to self-medicate and get through that extreme pressure of mental health.
“We know that unless we provide more alcohol and other drug (AOD) facilities across the state, then more people are not going to get out of that terrible cycle of needing to drink or use drugs in order to get through the day.”
She said a Shepparton clinic was essential in order to reduce travel time and improve access to support services.
“I see firsthand so many locals that don’t get access to this support and see the devastation that causes our community,” said Nationals candidate Kim O’Keeffe, who said the facility is one of her most important aspirations going into the election.
Liberal candidate Cheryl Hammer said that the facility is a service that the community has spent years lobbying for. Through her work at The Cottage in Shepparton, a residential facility that assists local people to abstain from drugs and alcohol.
“[The Cottage] has been filling the gap and it’s provided support for 350 people suffering addiction and their families since about 2017.
These extra 30 beds will absolutely be amazing in support and complementing the work that’s already being done here,” said Ms Hammer.
Current data shows a critical shortage of AOD beds in the state. A ratio of 0.74 rehabilitation beds per 10,000 people puts Victoria the second worst of the nation.