The ‘huge backlog’ of people waiting for a public bed for drug and alcohol treatment in Victoria


Victorians with a drug or alcohol drawback are struggling to entry publicly-funded dependancy therapy beds as ready occasions blow out due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beating dependency is usually a two-step course of: weaning off the substance at a residential withdrawal clinic, earlier than studying easy methods to dwell with out it at a rehabilitation facility.

One of many state’s largest residential withdrawal clinics, Uniting ReGen at Ivanhoe, in Melbourne’s north-east, presently has about 90 individuals on its ready listing. Persons are ready as much as two months to entry the providers.

“We have by no means had a ready listing this lengthy,” ReGen’s supervisor Rose McCrohan mentioned.

“What’s outstanding is that a few of these individuals haven’t sought therapy earlier than.”

Odyssey Home, which with three websites is without doubt one of the largest residential rehabilitation providers within the state, has virtually 300 individuals ready between six weeks and three months to get in.

COVID-19 has created extreme challenges for the sector, as social distancing measures have coincided with better demand for therapy.

“On the peak of the pandemic, we needed to in the reduction of our mattress numbers by about 40 to 50 per cent,” Odyssey’s chief government Stefan Gruenert mentioned.

“That simply allowed individuals to have their very own rooms and to keep up a ways after they have been eating and all within the shared areas.”

Fleeting window of alternative

Whereas Odyssey Home has since boosted the variety of obtainable beds, it has but to return to full capability.

“There’s nonetheless an enormous backlog of individuals ready to get in,” Dr Gruenert mentioned.

A portrait of a young man in a t-shirt in a room.
Warren, a recovered heroin addict, says when persons are instructed they’ve to attend for therapy, they usually hand over.(ABC Information: Rudy De Santis)

However these searching for assist can not afford to attend too lengthy.

“There has really been a few individuals move away whereas they have been on our ready listing which isn’t regular,” Ms McCrohan mentioned.

“We do not have the precise particulars as to why they handed away, nevertheless to have that occur a few occasions is irregular.”

Recovered heroin addict Warren, who doesn’t need his final identify used for privateness causes, warns the “second of readability” when somebody decides to get assist for drug and alcohol dependancy could be fleeting.

“We get in sufficient ache and the window opens the place we go OK, I need assistance,” Warren mentioned.

“However then after we get instructed ‘oh you have to wait six weeks, and never solely that you have to proceed to name us so we all know you are still within the mattress’, you recognize the window closes once more.”

Demand anticipated to surge as restrictions ease

A lounge room at a drug and alcohol unit with two pushers in the foreground.
The ReGen withdrawal clinic at Ivanhoe, in Melbourne’s north-east, has locations for moms and infants.(ABC Information: James Hancock)

To make issues worse, the sector is bracing for a attainable surge in demand early this yr from individuals who merely can not wait any longer to get assist for his or her dependancy.

“There’s an entire bunch of individuals on the market that in COVID did not go anyplace, they weren’t going to hunt any assist they usually weren’t visiting anyone,” the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Affiliation’s government officer Sam Biondo mentioned.

“That is what I name suppressed demand, they really feel comfy now.”

The pandemic has additionally exacerbated a long-term scarcity of publicly-funded drug and alcohol therapy beds in Victoria.

“Victoria historically has had in all probability the second-lowest variety of obtainable residential beds within the nation, second to South Australia,” Mr Biondo mentioned.

“Per capita the State Authorities has sought to extend the variety of beds, nevertheless, social distancing and COVID has in all probability knocked a big a part of that capability out of circulation.”

The Victorian Authorities mentioned the variety of residential rehabilitation beds within the state would have doubled by July this yr to 492.

It mentioned it could work with the sector to handle any considerations.

“The impacts of coronavirus on the alcohol and drug rehabilitation system are persevering with to be monitored,” a spokesperson mentioned.

“We have invested $52.1 million in new residential rehabilitation services within the Gippsland, Hume and Barwon areas — the brand new services will present care and assist to an extra 900 Victorians yearly.”


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