Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Rehabilitation – wait time shortfall

My adjournment debate is for the Minister for Health. Wait times for alcohol and other drug (AOD) rehabilitation are getting, quite frankly, ridiculous. In September last year there were 2385 people waiting for help. In July this year that list blew out to 3599 people. These are people who have an addiction. These are people who want to get better. These are also people who have been ordered by a court to get help so they do not commit more crimes. There should be no waiting list. During COVID the government has allowed home delivery of food and drinks to thrive without virtually any checks and balances and has allowed cafes and restaurants to home deliver as well. Unfortunately when the government decides to make alcohol more and more available to people throughout the pandemic, it needs to be cognisant of the negative effects that often come with alcohol consumption. Just last week we saw the Sex Work Decriminalisation Bill 2021 introduced. The government will allow alcohol to be consumed on site at brothels and also allow for home delivery of alcohol. There seems to be an obsession by the government in letting alcohol be available to vulnerable people but with no responsibility to fund services for such people to get help. It is flirting with disaster. Some of the facts and figures to come out of the pandemic include from Cohealth, which said the number of clients seeking help for alcohol has jumped by 85 per cent since 2019, disproportionately affecting women. The Coroners Court reported that alcohol-only overdoses among women grew dramatically, with five deaths in 2018, 10 in 2019 and 15 last year. Ambulance Victoria data collected by Turning Point shows the proportion of alcohol-related call-outs to the home as opposed to outside the home climbed from 60 per cent to 81 per cent during the lockdown last year. Under section 115F of the Sentencing Act 1991 the Attorney-General receives a report every financial year regarding the number of people put on a mandatory treatment and monitoring order. These are for people on community correction orders who need AOD help. This report also says how many people have breached the orders. This might include people who have not been able to satisfy their CCO conditions because the wait time for help is so long. I asked the Attorney’s office for a copy of this report, but they have refused. To me, it feels like the government may be hiding something. I have seen the minister’s response to Mr Barton on this matter, and whilst it is great for the minister to list the figures and dollars going to the sector, we are still seeing the waiting list soar. The government needs to explain why, as clearly spending is not keeping up with demand. This is despite the government being more than happy to devote $3.8 billion to mental health just this year. There needs to be a clear acknowledgement that drug use is detrimental for those with poor mental health and therefore should be addressed with the same sort of courageous investment. Therefore the action that I seek from the minister is to explain why AOD treatment, specifically alcohol treatment as a result of increases from the pandemic, is not keeping up with demand and to outline how they seek to address this shortfall into the future.


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