Drug reform pleas from local NSW health and legal services continue after ice inquiry

In a small music studio on the south coast of New South Wales, young people in a residential rehab drug program are writing new songs.

Participants begin with the chorus.

Then comes the rap.

Men are given the opportunity to process their emotions in music workshops.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Music therapy is part of a 16-week program at Nowra at Oolong House and can support approximately 100 men per year.

70% enter with ice poisoning.

Hayden John Blowes is about two weeks away from graduating.

Four days before the 34-year-old married father of four was arrested in April, he overdosed on ice and heroin.

Hayden Blowes hopes her time at Oolong House will provide a foundation for her recovery.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

“I was arrested for a string of petty crimes, shoplifting, breaking into a business, stealing a car, and doing whatever I could to keep up the habit,” Brows said.

He said he was seeing “a significant amount of time in prison” for the second time and had to do something for his family.

“I contacted Oolong House and was fortunate enough to meet the criteria and get another chance.”

He said music “helped us realize that we weren’t necessarily bad people.”

Blowes hopes that state governments and communities will understand the need for more rehabilitation and support for drug users.

“I’ve seen so many boys in prison. They’re either going really bad or they can take the opportunities that I have.” He said.

“There are people calling every day to go into rehab…that could change everything.”

need more help

Among them was expanding access to community and indigenous rehabilitation services. 109 Recommendations from the New South Wales Drug Ice Task Force.

Woolong House CEO Steve Adler said he struggled to understand why, more than two years later, the state government had not responded to 104 recommendations and agreed to none.

Steve Adler says clients face more problems than just drug addiction.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

During his 12 years at the center, he became increasingly aware of the dual health problem in men.

“It’s not just an addiction, it’s an underlying mental health issue that leads to them for the rest of their lives,” said a Uin Nation Wodi Wody man.

Oolong House is one of six Aboriginal Housing Rehabilitation Services in the state.

Mr Ardler said demand for the service was “huge” due to the large catchment area from Wollongong to the Victorian border.

He said the center only allows a four-month waiting list.

“Nowra is considered a hotspot for amphetamine use and I think one of the biggest concerns is having a mental health load and designated detox.

He said there is a need for training and youth programs on alcohol and drug use and mental health.

Casey Adler, admissions officer at Woolong House, said the service also helped provide cultural connections through language and national rituals.

“Many of these services are not only life-changing, they are life-saving for some and yours. [are] You’re not only saving a man’s life, but you’re saving that man’s family,” said a woman from Uin Nation’s Wody Wody.

“It’s a shame. This long period of inaction has given the government two and a half years to act on these recommendations.”

Casey Ardler says the service also helps provide cultural connections.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

“Forgotten People”

The ice research was commissioned by former Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian just before the 2019 state elections.

It took 14 months to collect evidence, hold special hearings in Nowra, Lismore, Dubbo, Maitland, Molly and Broken Hill, and produce a four-volume, 1,200-page report.

The government’s response was to rule out five recommendations Including pill testing and abolition of drug dogs.

Further response has been deferred for the reason. disagreements within the coalition On how to deal with recommendations in court that drug users should be referred to medical services.

Commissioner Dan Howard said the government is “completely ignoring” evidence-based recommendations because they cannot win votes.

Professor Dan Howard says lives are being lost because states don’t have good drug policies.(ABC News)

“Given the long delay of two and a half years, I have come to believe that the government is indifferent to the suffering of people with drug problems and their families,” Professor Howard said.

“Frankly, people with drug problems and their families have become a forgotten and lost people in this state.”

The government spent $11 million on the investigation.

“It’s a shame for the government and they need to wake up to themselves and start acting in a more courageous and humane way,” Professor Howard said.

“We are dying … because we do not have a good drug policy in New South Wales.”

rehabilitation demand

In Broken Hill, western NSW, 1,000 kilometers from the South Coast, former addict Don Baron runs a soup kitchen that feeds homeless, working poor and pensioners.

“When I lived in Adelaide, I had a life of crime, so I started doing this,” Barron said.

Don Baron meets many people working hard while delivering food.(ABC Broken Hill: Bill Ormond)

He spent five years in a South Australian prison, where he discovered he was an ice addict and needed help.

“I was also involved in heavy drug trafficking, but I was eventually caught in karma and became addicted to my own poison,” he said.

Broken Hill had no rehab options, so he enlisted the help of the local hospital’s mental health recovery center.

Broken Hill’s closest NSW Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center is in Orange, over 500 miles away.(ABC Broken Hill: Bill Ormond)

Barron said communities like his hometown should be supported with dedicated detox centers and long-term improvement programs.

“It’s okay to have a stop once a week to visit, but it’s just a first aid. You have to go there. There is recovery.”

Professor Howard said he heard similar stories at roundtables he gave, where community and indigenous services were “crying for help.”

Professor Howard said he made the recommendation on a need-to-know basis when the evidence was substantiated.(ABC News)


Wollongong criminal attorney Matt Ward praises the comprehensive nature of the report and recommendations as actionable that can “make a real difference in people’s lives.”

Matt Ward says that if the government adopts the study’s recommendations, the entire community will notice the change.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

In particular, we would like to expand to rural areas many of the services that are currently only available in Sydney.

These include expanding drug courts and MERIT. This is a 12-week program for adult defendants with substance abuse problems to work on rehabilitation as part of the bail process.

Matt Ward wants drug courts and the MERIT program to expand across NSW.(ABC News: Hannah Laxton Koons)

“In other parts of the state, depending on where you live and what the lawsuit is, you may not be eligible or eligible for the MERIT program,” Ward said.

Drug courts operate in Parramatta, Toronto and Sydney CBD, and will open in Dubbo in February 2023.

Ward said it was “devastating” for people to find out they were ineligible for drug courts because of where they lived or where they committed crimes.

He also endorsed a recommendation to enact a police diversion plan for drug use and possession for personal use, with up to three diversion opportunities, which would have a “huge” impact. claimed to produce

He said it would be “in everyone’s interest” for illegal drug use to be recognized as a health and social issue rather than a criminal justice issue.

“It stops crime, reduces the chances of that person being detained again, and the community pays for it.”

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Frustration over lack of policy grows after New South Wales drug investigation.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-09-20/regional-nsw-pleads-for-government-to-act-on-ice-inquiry/101442566 Drug reform pleas from local NSW health and legal services continue after ice inquiry

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