Melbourne, VIC, 30th August 2013 – UnitingCare ReGen, the lead alcohol and other drug treatment and education agency of UnitingCare Victoria & Tasmania, today welcomed this morning’s announcements by Minister Wooldridge of the Victorian Government funding for methamphetamines prevention, education and treatment ($1.1 million) and the Community Overdose Prevention & Education (COPE) program ($200,000).
Minister Wooldridge announced that the methamphetamines package would include:
- research ice use across the state and present a snapshot of the impacts of ice use based on geography and demographics;
- improve community awareness of the impacts of ice through targeted education campaigns initially aimed at apprentices, post-secondary students and Aboriginal communities;
- undertake training with alcohol and drug treatment and Aboriginal health workers across the state to improve capacity to respond to clients who are using ice and other amphetamines;
- develop a tailored diversion program for first-time offenders using ice; &
- provide increased counselling for treatment agencies to provide to ice-affected clients.
The two-year COPE project aims to:
- increase GP knowledge of naloxone, supporting increased prescription;
- increase pharmacist and primary health care provider knowledge of naloxone, its availability and use;
- provide at-risk drug users and potential witnesses to overdose (particularly family and friends) with the knowledge and ability to respond to and administer naloxone;
- provide training for front-line service personnel (police, pharmacists, primary care providers, community health centres, Medicare Local staff, and potential witnesses) about opioid overdose risk factors, how to recognise the signs of an overdose, and how to respond to an overdose including how to administer naloxone; &
- link into other primary care services and harm reduction settings to broaden the use of naloxone as a standard overdose prevention tool.
Responding to the funding announcements, ReGen CEO Laurence Alvis said:
These are important initiatives to reduce the harms associated with methamphetamine use in Victoria and to save lives. We have seen a significant increase in demand for methamphetamine treatment in the past two years and have undertaken a number of changes to our treatment services in response to the particular needs of people who are dependent on methamphetamines.
While alcohol remains, by far, the drug responsible for the greatest harms within our communities, the noticeable increase in methamphetamine use (and the subsequent harms to individuals, families and the wider community) is a genuine cause for concern. ReGen will continue to develop targetted services to cater to the needs of those Victorians affected by the use of methamphetamines and other emerging drug types (including new Drug Diversion programs), in partnership with the Victorian Government and other prevention, education and treatment providers.
Commenting on the COPE program announcement, Mr Alvis said:
We are very pleased to see the Victorian Government making such a significant commitment to expanding the availability to and uptake of naloxone for people who use drugs, family members and front-line health professionals. Ready access to this life-saving medication has been demonstrated to have a significant impact on preventing overdose.
It is difficult to capture the impact of providing friends and family members with the capacity to respond immediately to a loved one’s overdose. We know the deep and ongoing trauma experienced by family members who have lost someone to overdose and the regret at not being able to keep them alive.
While empowering family members is an important step forward, the most important group to target in promoting overdose prevention is people who use drugs themselves. They are much more likely to be present with people who overdose and, as such, are the most able to respond quickly to a life threatening situation.
We hope that the COPE program will place a suitable emphasis on reaching out to peer users.
For further information or comment please contact Laurence Alvis on 03 9384 8880 or Media Contact Paul Aiken on 0435 875 818.
Background about ReGen: UnitingCare ReGen is the lead alcohol and other drugs treatment and education agency of UnitingCare Victoria & Tasmania. We have been promoting health and reducing alcohol and other drug related harm since 1970. We support social justice and sustainable change at an individual, community and systemic level.