GARY HIGGINS MLA
Country Liberals Leader
Shadow Minister for Housing and Community Development
The Country Liberals Opposition will work with the Federal Coalition and Territory governments as well as private sources to secure extra funding for rehabilitation service providers like Darwin’s Banyan House to assist them to tackle the Ice epidemic.
Opposition Leader Gary Higgins recently toured Banyan House and was given a snapshot of the additional demand Ice has placed on services.
As recently as two years ago there was excess capacity at Banyan House – now the centre is approaching full capacity, with over 70 per cent of it residents suffering from Ice addiction.
“There are strong links between Ice usage and crime and tackling Ice should be part of a multi-pronged approach to combating crime, Mr Higgins said.
“Ice does not discriminate, with everyone including doctors and lawyers, tradies and students, men and women, adults and children all suffering from addiction to this life and family destroying drug.
“Ice is a primary driver of crime. Experts have estimated that up to 95 per cent of robberies and half of all murders are Ice related. The Territory is not immune and the Department of Correctional Services has estimated that between 90 and 100 per cent of juveniles in detention are Ice users or addicts.”
Despite the increased demand by the community for treatment services, Banyan House was recently unsuccessful in seeking around $250,000 to fund two new staff and a vehicle to transport patients to the centre. The additional funding would have been specifically allocated to help meet additional service demand caused by Ice.
Banyan House chief executive, Chris Franck, said there is an identified need to make their service more accessible.
“Long distances from regional and remote communities create a barrier to access services,” he said.
“An appropriate vehicle and a part time staff member can bring people to Banyan House from within a 100km radius. Two additional, appropriately trained staff will be used to extend our current services, including more assertive case management.
Also planned was an outpatient counselling service for clients caught up in the web of addiction but not requiring residential recovery services. Outpatient services can be effective in reducing the pressure on our residential service.”
Mr Higgins will lobby governments and the private sector to secure additional funding for Ice treatment.
“I think it is also important that Government looks at rehabilitation services for juvenile users of the drug, to stop it at its source,” he said.