Funds for meth coun­sel­lors cut

The Sunday Times - - News - KATE CAMP­BELL

FUND­ING has been qui­etly slashed to WA’s Meth Helpline, which helps thou­sands of “ice” users and their fam­i­lies each year, prompt­ing fears many calls will now go unan­swered.

Men­tal Health Com­mis­sioner Tim Mar­ney yes­ter­day con­firmed the helpline’s bud­get had been cut by $154,000 for 2018-19.

The cut equates to 10 fewer shifts a week by trained coun­sel­lors who an­swer calls.

The fund­ing re­duc­tion to the ser­vice, which was a cen­tre­piece of the for­mer Lib­eral

gov­ern­ment’s meth strat­egy, came into ef­fect on July 1 — the same week the La­bor Gov­ern­ment’s meth ac­tion plan task force re­leased its com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion re­port.

The Sun­day Times has been told the fund­ing cut­back had been done with­out con­sul­ta­tion with the sec­tor or pub­lic. The Meth Helpline num­ber — 1800 874 878 — re­mains open, but now with fewer staff to an­swer calls.

The Al­co­hol and Drug Sup­port Ser­vice, which staffs the Meth Helpline that only launched in Septem­ber 2016, had its fund­ing in­creased from $1.1 mil­lion in 2015-16 to $1.16 mil­lion in 2017-18.

In its first six months of op­er­a­tion, coun­sel­lors and vol­un­teers an­swered more than 3000 meth-re­lated calls, mainly from users and their fam­i­lies.

“Seven trained coun­sel­lors are ded­i­cated to pro­vid­ing West Aus­tralians with pro­fes­sional ad­vice re­lat­ing to al­co­hol and other drug use. This equates to 65 shifts across the ser­vice. Prior to the re­duc­tion there was 75 shifts,” Mr Mar­ney said.

Men­tal Health Min­is­ter Roger Cook said: “The Meth Helpline is still ac­tive and con­tin­ues to serve the pub­lic and the call vol­umes will be closely mon­i­tored.

“We are con­fi­dent that sup­port will con­tinue to be avail­able for those who seek it.”

A drug sup­port worker, who refers ice users to the helpline, told The Sun­day Times the ser­vice saved lives and hav­ing fewer re­sources would be dam­ag­ing.

“There are calls al­ready go­ing unan­swered. To help peo­ple you’ve got to be ready when they ask for help. It’s a real shame, ”the worker, who wanted to re­main anony­mous, said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.