Launch of a new local, community-controlled response
On Friday 24 February Penington Institute launched a new GP-centred, local model to address problematic ice use in rural and regional Australia.
Working with partners in Mansfield, Victoria, Penington Institute is calling for a drastic change of mindset across rural and regional communities.
“Due to funding and isolation, the current response to ice in regional and rural Australia is fractured and dysfunctional,” said John Ryan, CEO of Penington Institute.
“There needs to be a seismic shift towards managing drug use as a public health issue rather than a crime and justice issue. GPs are central to this new approach. They will play a pivotal role in early intervention and drive the coordination of care and support services.”
A community controlled primary health system approach will allow those in need to quickly access appropriate support from their GP and other services to minimise or prevent problematic drug use as early as possible.
“The response works by intervening early – as soon as an individual’s ice use starts impacting on their life – and diverts the person into treatment or other health and social services,” said Mr Ryan.
For example, the individual might have been arrested for possessing a small amount of ice or for a property crime such as theft to finance their ice use. This might be the first time the person has ever been in trouble with the police. The response may divert the person away from the courts and towards a stint in treatment.
“The local GP would coordinate care in a seamless manner as the individual transitions from residential rehabilitation, potentially in a metropolitan area, to community-based rehabilitation,” said Mr Ryan.
Mansfield-based GP Dr Will Twycross said that ice was causing extensive damage to individuals, families and communities locally and across the nation.
“The impetus for this approach has come from a large public meeting held here recently,” Dr Twycross said.
“There are generally underlying and social factors contributing to someone’s problematic drug use. This means any response must address a range of factors including as mental health, employment, housing and isolation,” said Dr Twycross. He added, “of course, in many families, ice use is also connected to family violence and the safety of children in affected households.”
To be successful, a locally designed response needs to be trialed and run in consultation with key community stakeholders, including the local hospital, the GPs, local government, nurses, lawyers, police and others.