PERTH hosted a public hearing last Wednesday as part of the Commonwealth Parliament inquiry into crystal methamphetamine.
Federal Member for Cowan Anne Aly joined Xenophon team Senator for South Australia Skye Kakoschke-Moore and NSW Liberal MP Craig Kelly on the joint committee on law enforcement hearing in the Perth CBD.
The latest reliable data showed West Australians used meth at almost double the national rate.
WA Primary Health Alliance chief executive Learne Durrington spoke of the broader problem of substance abuse being linked to crime, rather than just ice, and the combination of factors that lead to higher rates of drug abuse.
“There are many issues that converge – poverty is absolutely key but there are other issues that coalesce – it’s general health, meaningful activity and employment, housing, water,” she said.
“We see this as a health issue and it has inter-generational impacts, the parents, the kids, the next generation.”
In response to Dr Aly’s questions about funding models, Ms Durrington said Alliance had about $6.7 million per year to distribute to services across the state.
“All of the funds go into services apart from 5 per cent which the Alliance holds to do workforce development; and to get a better understanding as the services roll out as to what needs there are that have not been accounted for.”
She said extra care needed to be taken to ensure people with mental health issues and a drug addiction did not “fall through the gaps”.
Ms Durrington said the Alliance was mandated by the Federal Government to fund treatment, but that targeted prevention was critical.
“There is a need for targeted prevention where you have populations at risk rather than the whole population,” she said.
“The data identifies the high risk communities; where those factors are financial issues, poorer health, poorer employment.”
WA Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies chief executive Jill Rundle told the inquiry the increase in the strength of ice available in WA was creating a more severe impact.
“The purity results in the increased likelihood of people getting into trouble… and the community being impacted by meth use,” she said.
Ms Rundle spoke of the three pillars: supply reduction, largely a matter for law enforcement; reducing demand through prevention and treatment, and reducing harm in the community.
She said “only one third of the services in WA are funded” and the service was “way behind”.
“Without adequate treatment services, people are waiting; they are not accessing services. There are not enough services to meet demand,” she said, adding that there was “not nearly enough” funding for prevention strategies or harm reduction services.
Ms Rundle stressed the importance of educating the community to deter meth use.
She also noted that while WA has 11 per cent of the country’s population, and almost double the rate of meth use, the state receives only 9 per cent of the available Federal funding.