Re­hab cen­tre in cri­sis

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Front Page - By LISA THOMAS

A SU­BI­ACO re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre could be forced to close its doors amid on­go­ing fund­ing cuts and claims of bro­ken fund­ing prom­ises by the State Gov­ern­ment.

Fresh Start Re­cov­ery Pro­gramme chief ex­ec­u­tive Jeff Claughton said Cor­rec­tive Ser­vices Min­is­ter Joe Fran­cis had promised $300,000 in ad­di­tional fund­ing in May last year to help keep them open.

Mr Fran­cis con­firmed he met Mr Claughton but said he did not prom­ise $300,000 worth of fund­ing to Fresh Start.

Mr Claughton said the Min­is­ter’s fund­ing prom­ise was on the back of a $1 mil­lion de­crease in fund­ing over three years, an­nounced in the 2015-16 bud­get.

He said the num­ber of peo­ple seek­ing help for metham­phetamine ad­dic­tion had risen 23 per cent over the past two years, stretch­ing the cen­tre’s re­sources to break­ing point.

“It’s like a tsunami when I open the door at 7am to peo­ple want­ing treat­ment,” he said.

“The amount of peo­ple want­ing treat­ment is ris­ing, but the fund­ing is de­creas­ing.”

The $300,000 worth of fund­ing was set to go to­wards nal­trex­one im­plants to treat drug ad­dicts in WA pris­ons to help break the cy­cle of of­fend­ing.

Fresh Start med­i­cal di­rec­tor Ge­orge O’Neil pi­o­neered the ex­per­i­men­tal nal­trex­one treat­ment in WA.

Mr Claughton said the not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion was told to re­duce costs by cut­ting treat­ment to those who did not pay for it.

“The gov­ern­ment’s stan­dard re­sponse is that we re­ceive sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing and we should tai­lor our costs, mean­ing we should turn peo­ple away if they can­not af­ford to pay for treat­ment,” he said.

“We treat peo­ple whether they can pay or not. Ev­ery­one will get a bill for $6000, but we will treat them re­gard­less… only about 20 per cent ac­tu­ally pay the full amount.

“Over half the peo­ple we treat are home­less or un­em­ployed and 80 per cent have an as­so­ci­a­tion with the crim­i­nal jus­tice cen­tre.”

Men­tal Health Min­is­ter An­drea Mitchell said the State Gov­ern­ment an­nounced a $14.9 mil­lion Meth Strat­egy in July to re­duce the de­mand for meth and boost treat­ment sup­port.

Ms Mitchell said meth use in WA was higher than the na­tional av­er­age, with 3.8 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion over the age of 14 us­ing the drug, com­pared with 2.1 per cent na­tion­ally.

“The Fresh Start Re­cov­ery Pro­gramme is an im­por­tant ser­vice and the Men­tal Health Com­mis­sion fund­ing com­mit­ment of ap­prox­i­mately $3 mil­lion in 2016-17 re­flects this,” she said.

“An ad­di­tional grant fund­ing of ap­prox­i­mately $1 mil­lion per an­num was pro­vided to sup­port the ser­vice while they pro­gressed work on the reg­is­tra­tion of nal­trex­one im­plants with the Ther­a­peu­tic Goods Ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

The cen­tre has treated more than 1964 pa­tients over the past two years and detoxed 1096, with 80 per cent of it funded by Fresh Start.

Mr Claughton said de­spite the fact the Gov­ern­ment was pro­mot­ing a war on meth in the me­dia, the fund­ing pro­vided to help the prob­lem was “laugh­able”.

“We are do­ing some­thing about it every day and we can’t af­ford to do it,” he said.

“It keeps me awake at night. I am go­ing to have to start turn­ing peo­ple away or mak­ing staff re­dun­dant.

“I have not been given an­swers. Our fund­ing is be­ing cut and we can­not keep do­ing what we are do­ing. There will come a day when we have to close our doors.”

D457900

Fresh Start Re­cov­ery Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Jeff Claughton.

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