Concerns raised about drug services

MEETING: MPs Jacinta Allan and Maree Edwards with Liz March and Kim Sykes.

MEETING: MPs Jacinta Allan and Maree Edwards with Liz March and Kim Sykes.

REPRESENTATIVES from central Victorian community health services met with Bendigo Labor MPs Jacinta Allan and Maree Edwards this week to discuss the recommissioning of alcohol and other drug services.

"Historically these service providers have been providing alcohol and other drug services, some of them for up to 30 years," Ms Allan said.

"The government has embarked on a reformed program that has thrown all of that past practice and approach out the window.

"What they've done is they've forced organisations to come together and bid for the work they've already been doing.

"But in the process they've completely botched the tender process to the point that these service providers will not be providing the service they've been previously providing.

"So it's going to make it harder for clients and family members to find the services."

Bendigo Community Health Services chief executive Kim Sykes told the Bendigo Advertiser last month she had grave concerns about the overhaul of adult alcohol and other drug treatment services.

Ms Sykes said $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 Australian 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. 

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.

However, a spokewoman for Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge said the reforms would improve support for adults, making treatment services easier to access and seamlessly integrated with other services that people need.

"These changes bring together several years of work by clients, families and carers, providers, the government and other stakeholders to address shortcomings in the alcohol and drug treatment service system," the spokeswoman said. 

"It will also provide a single, streamlined entry point for other health and human service providers seeking to refer a person for alcohol and drug treatment locally.""

The reforms are part of Reducing the Alcohol and Drug toll: Victoria’s Plan 2013-2017.

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