Royal com­mis­sion needs to in­clude drugs, al­co­hol

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS -

In­de­pen­dent can­di­date for Ovens Val­ley Tammy Atkins has called on the pro­posed Men­tal Health Royal Com­mis­sion to in­clude drug and al­co­hol ser­vices.

Ms Atkins sup­ports the prom­ise to hold a royal com­mis­sion into men­tal health and said prob­lem­atic drug use was as much a health is­sue as it was a law and or­der one and needed to be in­cluded.

‘‘I know from my time work­ing with Wan­garatta’s lo­cal drug ac­tion team that peo­ple with a men­tal ill­ness ex­pe­ri­ence drug prob­lems at far higher rates than the general com­mu­nity,’’ she said.

‘‘When peo­ple in our com­mu­nity reach out for men­tal health or dru­gre­lated sup­port, we need to be able to act quickly, not make them jump through hoops, fig­u­ra­tively speak­ing.

‘‘It beg­gars be­lief that right now there is lit­tle con­nec­tion be­tween Vic­to­rian al­co­hol and other drug and men­tal health ser­vices. They’re funded sep­a­rately and the sys­tems op­er­ate in­de­pen­dently of each other.

‘‘Men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als I have spo­ken to tell me that Vic­to­rian men­tal health ser­vices, once the leader in Aus­tralia, are now close to the worst.

‘‘Our pop­u­la­tion has grown but there has been no cor­re­spond­ing growth in the size of ser­vices. Vic­to­ria has the du­bi­ous dis­tinc­tion of hav­ing the low­est per capita ex­pen­di­ture on men­tal health in the coun­try, with ac­cess to ser­vices at 39 per cent be­low the na­tional av­er­age.

‘‘The way we pro­vide drug and al­co­hol ser­vices is too im­por­tant an is­sue to be ne­glected any fur­ther, that’s why it needs to be in­cluded in the pro­posed Men­tal Health Royal Com­mis­sion.’’

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