Families lose their way as they try to get help from support quagmire

Ice forum panelists Michaela Catanzariti from Ambulance Victoria, Mel Thompson from Waverley Emergency Adolescent Centre, Danielle North from Ambulance Victoria, Hotham MP Clare O'Neil, Maureen Buck from Waverley Emergency Adolescent Centre, Dan Lubman from Turning Point and David Jacka from Monash Health. 142463 Picture: CAM LUCADOU-WELLS


FAMILIES and patients are being lost in a “quagmire” of drug support services, a forum on ice was told last Wednesday.
Professor Dan Lubman, the director of Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre and a panelist at the Springvale forum, said: “Even those who work in it often don’t know who to call.”
“It really is a quagmire.”
He questioned why helplines for alcohol and drug issues weren’t as widely publicised as problem gambling services.
A heart-wrenching story came from a forum audience member who applied for an intervention order against her ice-addicted nephew.
She didn’t know where to turn.
When she visited a police station for help or a referral to a drug support service, the “constable” was unable to assist.
Under her own steam, she eventually hunted down a Windana support service.
Her nephew was in his early thirties and had been on heroin since 16. He’d spent his whole life on drugs, she told the forum.
She was fearful of his erratic behaviour during his sleepless nights. She described him breaking in through the back door in search of his mother.
When she told him to get off the ice, he went “berserk”.
She recalled having an anxiety attack in the car as she drove to a friend’s place for refuge. They told her to get help.
“The intervention order has now finished because (the police) hadn’t found him for five weeks or so.
“He’s still doing it out on the streets. It’s just terrible that these things can happen.
“I didn’t expect that would happen to me.”
Victoria Police’s Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius, one of the panelists and who oversees the southern metropolitan police region, sounded her out after the meeting to follow-up on the “referral issue”.
“It’s a terribly tragic thing for aunties and uncles to have to get a referral for a child,” he told the audience in response to the tale.
“It’s a last resort.
“We know a lot has happened before you come to see us.
“The stories are just the tip of the iceberg and reflect many years of pain, fear and misery.”
Earlier in the meeting, he said the police focus was on “referring those users into support services.” Included in that was a strong emphasis on diversion programs.
His message for the audience was to seek help from agencies – drug support services as well as emergency services.
“If you need help, particularly in a family violence context, the best way to get police help is to ring triple zero.”
Mel Thompson of Waverley Emergency Adolescent Centre said there were excellent services – albeit not enough of them – but people didn’t know where to go.
“Do they need counselling? Do they need detox? Do they need family support? Or do they need rehab?”
She said people could get the answers from the 24/7 helpline DirectLine but it needed further publicity.
Dr David Jacka, a Monash Health addiction medicine specialist, advised local media to share helpline contact numbers at the end of drug-related stories.
For help, ring SECADA on 9794 7630, DirectLine (24/7) on 1800 888 236 or Turning Point (24/7) on 1800 ICE ADVICE – 1800 423 238.