Jobs to go as alcohol, drug service overhauled

SPEAKING OUT: Bendigo Community Health Services chief executive Kim Sykes has expressed her concerns.

SPEAKING OUT: Bendigo Community Health Services chief executive Kim Sykes has expressed her concerns.

BENDIGO Community Health Services chief executive Kim Sykes has grave concerns about the overhaul of adult alcohol and other drug treatment services.

Under changes announced by the state government late on Friday afternoon, $1.73 million that could have been allocated to Loddon Mallee agencies to strengthen local services has been redistributed, the majority to Melbourne-based agency the Australkian Community Support Organisation.

Ms Sykes said the recommissioning of AOD services would mean about 10 full-time job cuts which would affect about 15 people in Bendigo alone.

More job losses are expected in other Loddon Mallee communities.

Ms Sykes said the government had missed the mark and the changes had not taken into account life in rural Victoria.

"What they've achieved is partial progress towards their stated philosophy of market-driven reform and they have missed some of the implications at a grassroots level, at the client and service interface," she said.

"I am astounded that this government hasn't taken into account issues in rural Victoria and the impact of shifting funding for services provided by local agencies to agencies that are based outside our region.

"I am astounded that they haven't understood the importance of relationships in rural areas and in AOD treatment more generally.

"There is research that demonstrates that the relationship with the agency and support provided is the most significant factor in a successful withdrawal and rehabilitation."

But Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge says the reforms will improve support for adults, with treatment services that are easier to access.

More than $41 million will fund 27 consortia comprising 83 adult non-residential treatment and support services in 16 catchment areas across the state. She said key changes were streamlined and centralised access for people, simplified service delivery and an area-based approach.

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