Meth ad­dicts set for en­forced treat­ment

Pilbara News - - News - Daniel Emer­son

Des­per­ate fam­i­lies could ap­ply to a court to force meth-ad­dicted loved ones into re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion un­der rad­i­cal drug laws the Bar­nett Govern­ment wants to im­port from New Zealand.

Cor­rec­tive Ser­vices Min­is­ter Joe Fran­cis, who scru­ti­nised the laws dur­ing a visit to Wellington last month and briefed Cabi­net, said “do-good­ers and civil lib­er­tar­i­ans might not like the ap­proach, but we have got to do some­thing to help th­ese fam­i­lies”.

Un­der New Zealand’s Al­co­holism and Drug Ad­dic­tion Act, a fam­ily mem­ber, po­lice of­fi­cer or “rep­utable per­son” can ap­ply with statu­tory dec­la­ra­tions to a Dis­trict Court to force an ad­dict into treat­ment.

It is then up to the al­leged ad­dict to show cause why they should not go to re­hab and the court can is­sue war­rants for non-com­pli­ance.

Ad­dicts can also “self-re­fer” dur­ing a mo­ment of clar­ity and are bound un­der the Act to con­tinue treat­ment.

Mr Fran­cis said he had been begged by fam­i­lies — some with high pro­files — to send a rel­a­tive to prison to pre­vent them harm­ing them­selves or others while in the grips of ice ad­dic­tion.

“In Aus­tralia, we tend to wait un­til some­one has gone down the slip­pery slope so far that 95 per cent of meth ad­dicts end up in jail,” he said. “Should we not try to do some­thing be­fore­hand?”

Cur­rently, West Aus­tralians can be de­tained in­vol­un­tar­ily un­der the Men­tal Health Act while in a drug-in­duced psy­chosis, which usu­ally lasts about three days, but can­not be legally held when they re­cover from that state.

Some fam­i­lies have fought in the State Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal for guardian­ship to com­pel a loved one to get treat­ment.

Men­tal Health Min­is­ter An­drea Mitchell has been look­ing at the is­sue with the Men­tal Health Com­mis­sion. Mr Fran­cis ad­mit­ted an in­vol­un­tary pro­gram would re­quire scores more re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion places, as yet un­funded, and pos­si­bly pro­vided through the not-for-profit sec­tor.

But he said it would reap sav­ings in the long run by cut­ting WA’s prison muster growth, which was 9 per cent dur­ing the first half of the year in a spike he sus­pected meth was fu­elling.

The Na­tional Drug Re­search In­sti­tute has pre­vi­ously crit­i­cised forced re­hab, ar­gu­ing it is bet­ter to treat ad­dicts when they ask for help, so fund­ing should be boosted to vol­un­tary treat­ment to re­duce wait­ing times.

Mr Fran­cis said a WA model would also take time to de­velop, re­al­is­ti­cally putting it in the next par­lia­men­tary term. Shadow cor­rec­tive ser­vices min­is­ter Paul Pa­palia said he would not com­ment on a pro­posal he had not seen but “I am not con­vinced that manda­tory re­hab against the will of an in­di­vid­ual is go­ing to be the best re­sponse”.

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