It can take ten years for people to approach alcohol and other drugs services to get help tackling the problems they face, and they are skeptical about treatment.
That was one of the issues flagged by national treatment center Turning Point’s Dan Lubman as health professionals came together in Bendigo on Wednesday to consider ways to tackle alcohol and other drugs over the next five years.
About 60 health professionals gathered for the regional forum, which was hosted by the Alcohol and Drug Community Alliance – Loddon Mallee.
Among the topics Professor Lubman said the sector needed to tackle was a community perception alcohol and other drug addiction might not be real, and that people were just having a good time and should pull themselves together.
“Secondly, there’s a prevailing view in the community that treatment doesn’t work and so people are very nihilistic about getting help,” Professor Lubman said.
“What we see on average is delays of up to 10 years from when people develop a problem to when they get help.”
Professor Lubman said Wednesday’s forum was an opportunity to reflect on major gains made in the field, the latest research and consider where improvements could be made.
The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association’s Sam Biondo said the system was transitioning out of a period of under-investment.
He said a corner had been turned in sorting out the base of the alcohol and drug system. There was more money coming in, including to address pressures on residential rehabilitation and the sector’s workforce.
“Of course, there’s a lot more to be done, but it’s less precarious than it has been,” he said.
As money came in, it was important groups worked effectively to address the quirks of regional Victorian service provision, the Youth Support and Advocacy Service’s Peter Wearne said.
The sector would need to work together as a whole, because past reforms had not always led to strong outcomes.
“You can fund something in the middle of nowhere but you’ve got to get someone there who is prepared and qualified to do that work,” Mr Wearne said.
“What this (the forum) does is give you a base to start visioning and thinking about how we can work better together. There’s such good-will to do that across the services.”
Mr Wearne said the primary focus always needed to be on both who was using support group services and on identifying those who could not access help but desperately needed it.
“I call them the ‘suffering silent majority’,” he said.