Pubdate: Thu, 5 Nov 1998
Source: Age, The (Australia)
Page: A5
Copyright: 1998 David Syme & Co Ltd 
Author: Clare Kermond, State Political Reporter


Waiting lists for detoxification programs had blown out and there were
gaps in other treatment options for drug addicts, a parliamentary
committee was told yesterday.

The complaints came from a group tackling drug issues in Springvale
which also said 2300 syringes bad been picked up in local streets on
one Saturday.

The collection illustrated the urgent need for more sharps bins, the
Springvale Drug Action Committee told a public hearing on the
effectiveness of the State Government's Turn the Tide drugs strategy.

Mr Bill Wilson, a member of the Springvale committee, said while the
number of sharps bins reduced the number of needles found in the
streets, there was "considerable resistance" among traders and the
community to more bins.

Mr Wilson said there was a need for better education about the role of
sharps bins and for more bins in laneways, parks and car parks.

He said some people saw the local needle exchange program as "part of
the problem rather than part of the solution", although the program
had been successful, with the syringe return rate jumping from 35 per
cent a year ago to 65 per cent.

Mr Wilson said waiting lists for drug withdrawal programs had become
extensive recently, with men aged over 25 the worst affected.  He said
there was also a need for treatment programs catering for different
ethnic groups.

Mr Wilson said the committee supported the idea of safe injecting
rooms, but recognised that there would have to be a change in State
Government policy for this to happen.

The chief executive of the City of Greater Dandenong, Mr Warricke said
Springvale had been the subject of unfair media focus on its drug problem.

He said the perception did not match the facts, with the Springvale
area suffering about the same number of drug-related crimes as most
other areas.

Mr Heinne said the drug action committee, which includes
representatives from police, school, the council and the community
health centre, was working with the community to help people
understand that this was an issue they must all deal with.

The parliamentary drugs crime prevention committee is conducting a
series of public hearings as part of its evaluation of Turn the Tide.

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Checked-by: Rich O'Grady