With the Victorian state budget looming, the Latrobe Valley’s largest health and community organisations have united to call on the government to commit to building a new residential drug rehabilitation facility in the Latrobe Valley.
“The evidence of need is overwhelming. The community support is overwhelming. A skilled workforce already exists. The only major thing missing is government commitment to build the centre in Latrobe. It’s the final piece,” said Chair of the Latrobe Health Assembly, Professor John Catford.
The CEOs and Chairs of Latrobe Regional Hospital, Latrobe Community Health Service and Latrobe City Council have joined Professor Catford and the Latrobe Health Assembly in writing to the government seeking support for a Latrobe-based facility.
“In the wake of the Hazelwood Mine Fire, our organisations have worked together closely to advance the Latrobe Health Innovation Zone. We are in absolute lock-step agreement on this issue,” said Professor Catford.
“In April last year the State Government announced $9.7m to acquire land in Gippsland to build an 18-bed new residential drug rehabilitation facility,” he said.
“We congratulate Premier Andrews and his government on this really important and valuable initiative. It’s now time to agree that the Latrobe Valley will be the site for the new facility.”
Gary Van Driel, CEO of Latrobe City Council and member of the Latrobe Health Assembly, said he had been heartened by the strength of community support for a Latrobe-based facility.
“At our recent ‘Community Conversations’, attendees identified the health sector as a key strength of the municipality. Services for mental health, drugs and alcohol were ranked the highest priority by those who attended; a result that reflected community consultation received in the development of our Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan,” he said.
Ben Leigh, CEO of Latrobe Community Health Service, agreed that the community was behind the facility.
“I know a community forum organised recently by the Moe Rotary Club strongly agreed that a residential drug withdrawal service in Latrobe was the number one priority. Voices of the Valley has also launched a petition calling for residential drug rehabilitation facilities, and to date 550 signatures have been received,” he said.
“There is no doubt the community supports a Latrobe-based residential drug rehabilitation facility.”
Peter Craighead, CEO of Latrobe Regional Hospital, said staff in the hospital’s emergency department saw first-hand the impact of substance abuse in the community.
“They do an amazing job in difficult circumstances, helping people who come in under the influence of drugs. But we need a holistic approach to addressing substance abuse,” he said.
Data provided by Latrobe Community Health Service shows the scale of the drug treatment requirements in Latrobe. In 2014-15, more than 720 episodes of care were provided to people in Latrobe with drug dependencies – more than two-and-a-half times more than the next closest Gippsland LGA.
Treatment for amphetamine use (which includes ice) in Latrobe has also exploded, with a 600 per cent increase in episodes of care since 2010.
“The population is largest in Latrobe, and the problem is largest in Latrobe. Building this facility in the Valley is the obvious choice,” said Prof Catford.
“The Latrobe Health Assembly, which includes our largest health organisations, along with the broader community, looks forward to the government’s response in the upcoming state budget to building this much-needed facility in Latrobe.”