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AMA welcomes ice inquiry report

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The Joint Parliamentary Committee Inquiry on Law Enforcement has released its Inquiry into Crystal Methamphetamine (ice) Report.

It has recognised drug and alcohol addiction to be a serious illness and should be treated as such.

The AMA has welcomed the findings, which also state that demand for drug and alcohol treatment services often outweighs capacity.

And there is a need to tailor services to suit a variety of needs, including post care services.

The importance of accountability for those bodies who fund alcohol and drug treatment services was also stressed, as was the need to rebalance funding across the National Drug Strategy.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said the AMA believes that any substance dependence is a serious health condition, and that those impacted should be treated like other patients with serious illness and be offered the best available treatments and supports to recover.

“We welcome the recommendations that recognise the stigma associated with addiction, and seek to increase compassionate responses, including media reporting,” Dr Gannon said.

“This is essential if we are going to encourage people to seek treatment.”

The release of the report also serves as a timely reminder of the statement made by the Head of the National Ice Taskforce, Ken Ley: “That we cannot arrest our way out of the problem.”

The AMA supports the recommendations to monitor and ultimately reduce the time take for people to access appropriate treatment. It is also great that the importance of pre- and post- care is recognised.

“The AMA is particularly pleased to see the recommendation that the Department of Health work with Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to improve their tender processes for drug and alcohol treatment,” Dr Gannon said.

“We believe that the PHNs must be accountable for the services, wait times and the quality of the drug and alcohol treatment services provided in their jurisdictions.”

The approach (established under the National Ice Action Plan) is new and the capacity of PHNs to oversee the effective and equitable delivery of drug and alcohol treatment services is yet to be fully established.

The report recognises the importance of culturally and linguistically appropriate drug and alcohol treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This work should include efforts to increase the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander drug and alcohol workforce, it noted.

The report contains a recommendation to collect data on the use of illicit drugs in correctional facilities which will provide some valuable insights, but it is vitally important that rehabilitation and treatment services are available to those people who are in the corrections system noting drug and alcohol addiction is often a key contributor to incarceration.

“We must also recognise the link between mental health and addiction, and the report misses an important opportunity reiterate this and advocate for increased linkages between the sectors,” Dr Gannon said.

“The Inquiry Report is certainly on the right track in many areas relating to drug and alcohol addiction.

“This is in stark contrast to the Government’s current efforts to pass legislation (Social Services Legislation Amendment Drug Testing Trial Bill 2018) that will drug test welfare recipients.

“This punitive measure will increase the stigma associated with drug addiction, and is not supported by evidence. The reality is that it will increase the demand for drug treatment services that are clearly under significant pressure. Throwing money at the trial sites won’t fix the problem.”

The AMA encourages Social Services Minister Dan Tehan to read the Inquiry report to better understand the problems in the sector, and withdraw the random drug testing proposal until such time that we can improve the capacity of the sector to meet demand for drug treatment.

“We must not do anything to increase the delays for those individuals actively seeking treatment,” Dr Gannon said.

“Referring those who test positive under the welfare trial will do this.”

The AMA Submission to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Law Enforcement Inquiry into crystal methamphetamine can be found at: submission/ama-submission-joint-parliamentary-committee-law-enforcement-%E2%80%93-inquiry-crystal

The AMA Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee’s Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017 can be found at: submission/ama-submission-senate-community-affairs-legislation-committees-inquiry-social-services

AMA Position Statement on Methamphetamine can be found at: position-statement/methamphetamine-2015

AMA Position Statement on Harmful substance abuse, dependence and behavioural addiction can be found at: position-statement/harmful-substance-use-dependence-and-behavioural-addiction-addiction-2017

CHRIS JOHNSON

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