“It’s time for funding to meet demand”

Thursday, April 18, 2019: A report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released yesterday revealed an increase in Australians accessing drug and alcohol treatment services, despite an increase in waiting times for The Buttery’s drug and alcohol treatment programs on the Mid and North Coast.

According to the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in Australia 2017–18 Report, the number of treatment episodes in NSW increased over 20 per cent on the previous year, from 37,997 in the 2016-17 to 45,824 in 2017-2018.

This trend was reflected by Northern NSW drug and alcohol treatment organisation, The Buttery, which reported a 22.3% increase in participants in 2017-18 compared to the previous financial year – a result of increased services and regional footprint (1240 participants compared to 1014).

The Buttery CEO, Leone Crayden, said, “While this latest report highlights how many more people are accessing treatment services, the North Coast still has a lack of residential treatment beds and that is evidenced by The Buttery having a six-month waiting list.

“For the first time recently, we have seen demand outstrip capacity for some of our community day programs,” Ms Crayden said.

According to the 2018 Local Health Needs Community Survey by the Primary Health Network North Coast, 68% of respondents in the Ballina LGA said it was difficult to access Alcohol and Other Drug services.

Yet, in the same survey, North Coast participants stated they believed drug and alcohol misuse was the most serious health issue in their community, rating it above mental health and ageing issues.

Ms Crayden said, “It’s time for program funding to match demand and community sentiment. The lack of access to treatment programs mean people are being turned away when they are ready to make the courageous decision to recover. This makes no sense from a health or social perspective and certainly it makes no sense economically.”

Alcohol biggest issue but methamphetamine use increasing

According to the AIHW Report, over the last 5 years, alcohol has consistently been the most common drug Australians received treatment for. However, this has declined from 40% in 2013–14 to 34% in 2017–18.

Amphetamines now account for a quarter of all treatment episodes, up from 17% in 2013–14.

Locally, The Buttery’s client data mirrored this trend, with 23% of clients reporting methamphetamine as their primary drug of concern compared to 12% in 2015.

“However, we can’t let this overshadow the fact that alcohol is still the primary drug our clients receive treatment for,” Ms Crayden said.

“The Buttery would be making a submission to the NSW Government’s Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’ (crystal methamphetamine),” Ms Crayden said.

The Buttery is also presenting its case for increased treatment services at the next Lismore City Council Social Justice Crime Prevention Committee meeting.

“Just last week doctors from the US trained our staff in a PTSD treatment program called COPE so that we can treat not only substance use disorder but  PTSD as well, because we know the two issues are so interconnected.

“The Buttery is committed to doing everything it can to ensure that alcohol and drug issues are recognised as the critical health issue it is for this area, and that it be funded accordingly,” Ms Crayden said.