Voice of Real Australia: Drug addiction and rehab support services lacking

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Ann-Maree admits she's been on "a journey" - and like many, that's included drug use. Photo: Zaarkacha Marlan

Ann-Maree admits she's been on "a journey" - and like many, that's included drug use. Photo: Zaarkacha Marlan

It is no secret that Dubbo has a drug problem.

When we initially sat down to discuss this week's Voice of Real Australia podcast about the push for a rehab and drug court in Dubbo, I wasn't aware of just how significantly drugs can impact people - directly and indirectly.

Take one woman, Ann-Maree. I first met her at her office. I was taken back by how open and honest she was about her journey.

Like most people she knew, she fell into bad habits as a teenager and that included using drugs.

She knew firsthand what it was like to be sent away "to recover", but admitted being so far away from her family and friends made it much harder. She did not complete the program.

Ann-Maree is an example of someone who was "loved to good health". Her family supported her journey and helped her get into a program close by in Dubbo, a five-hour drive north-west of Sydney. She was able to learn resilience strategies to help deal with her addictions, while still gaining support from her family who were just down the road.

As a court and crime reporter I witness people coming before the court each week, and, for a majority of cases, drugs and alcohol are either contributing factors in an offence, or present in an offender's history.

While Ann-Maree wasn't an offender, as she pointed out to me, we should be supporting offenders and their rehabilitation rather than punishing them for their circumstances.

Carolyn and Rick Lean. Photo: Kellsey Galea.

Carolyn and Rick Lean. Photo: Kellsey Galea.

Then there's Rick and Carolyn's story - it opened my eyes even further. The couple lost their son Cameron to suicide two years ago, after he fell victim to the effects of drugs.

For the first time they spoke out about their son - a promising young man who moved to Newcastle. There he mixed with the wrong crowd and became drug-dependent.

To hear from two people who will indirectly be haunted by the effects of drugs for a lifetime was truly heart-breaking. Learning that Cameron had told them he would 'rather die' than go to jail absolutely shocked me.

A drug court would have had the potential to help Cameron. It would have helped him into rehabilitation, and possibly he would have been here today to tell his own story.

Dubbo is the largest regional centre in the NSW west, and, shockingly, it does not have a rehabilitation facility.

It's clear a coalition of counsellors, politicians, desperate parents, former addicts, and lawyers have been lobbying the powers-that-be for such a facility for decades.

During the making of this Voice of Real Australia podcast episode, it seemed to me the community's cries were falling on deaf ears.

Jimmy Forrest. File: Photo

Jimmy Forrest. File: Photo

Jimmy Forrest told us he's been attending meetings for years and years, forever "discussing" the need for a rehabilitation centre. There's been no action and he is growing tired.

The state government announced on Monday Dubbo would get its rehabilitation and detoxification centre. But there here is still a long way to go.

At this stage, the finer details of the rehab plan are still unknown.

We don't know the size of the facility.

Dubbo Regional Council has been pushing for eight detox beds and 15 rehabilitation beds. But the government could not confirm this week if that would be the case.

We also don't know where the centre will be located.

Land has been offered by council, but the government has said it's still waiting to determine the construction site.

Mostly importantly, we don't know how it will operate.

There is still no drug court in Dubbo, so we know people will not be sentenced to attend the rehab centre through the drug court system.

These are just some of the burning questions left unanswered.

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