FEDERAL Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch says Far North Queensland will benefit from extra efforts to tackle the drug ‘ice’.
The Government will invest almost $300 million over four years to improve treatment, after-care, education, prevention, support and community engagement to tackle ice. It comes after the Final Report of the National Ice Taskforce was released in October.
“The increase in the use of ice – particularly in regional and remote communities – is very concerning,” said Mr Entsch.
“The problem has been around in Far North Queensland since about 2007 when police seized commercial quantities of amphetamine-type stimulants destined for remote communities in the area.
“The problem is growing all across Australia, but the National Ice Taskforce’s report indicates it can be exacerbated in areas such as ours where high youth unemployment rate can contribute to problems like illicit drug use.”
Mr Entsch has had consistent involvement in the region’s fight against ice – hosting a community forum in Cairns in May this year and, in October, attending the National Ice Forum in Canberra to explore solutions to use of ice among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. He is also looking forward to being involved in an ice stakeholder forum in Port Douglas early next year.
He said the Government’s new funding package includes an additional $241.5 million to be invested through Primary Health Networks around the country.
“The Primary Health Networks will use their local knowledge to boost the alcohol and other drug treatment sector and reduce demand for ice,” said Mr Entsch.
“An additional $13 million investment by the Government will introduce new MBS items for Addiction Medicine Specialists to increase the availability of treatment.”
He said that, while police all over Australia had done a great job – making a record 26,000 arrests in 2013-14 – ice had remained easy to get, and the price had not changed.
“The National Ice Taskforce says we must address demand if we are to be effective in combatting ice,” said Mr Entsch.
Minister responsible for drug and alcohol policy, Senator the Hon. Fiona Nash, said helping those who are hooked on ice to get off it takes the biggest buyers out of the market and reduces demand.
“Primary Health Networks will choose what forms of treatment is best bang for buck in the local region – be that counselling, rehabilitation or other forms of treatment. Government and Primary Health Networks will also work closely with the Aboriginal Community Controlled health sector to invest in culturally appropriate services.
“Existing services will be extended by another 12 months to 30 June 2017 to allow considered planning of service delivery by Primary Health Networks going forward.
“The Primary Health Networks also deliver mental health treatment services which will provide a vital link between the drug and alcohol treatment sector and the mental health sector – helping people who are on the drug to get off it, and educating others to never start taking it,” said Senator Nash.
For more information about the National Ice Taskforce, including the final report, go to www.pmc.gov.au/ice