Pubdate: Thu, 30 Jul 1998 
Source: The Advertiser (Australia) 

THE Human Services Minister, Mr Brown, has ordered his department to
investigate the merits of empowering police to refer heroin addicts for
treatment rather than arresting them.

AN increasing number of deaths from heroin overdoses prompted the Police
Commissioner, Mr Hyde, to signal the referral option in The Advertiser

Mr Brown said he "shared the commissioner's reported concerns about drug
use, particularly among young people".

Mr Brown revealed he had set up a meeting between Drug and Alcohol Services
staff and senior police to explore the merits of drug referrals.

Senior police have also been asked to consider - as part of a review of the
police drug strategy - the merits of targeting lower-level drug dealers and
users rather than the "Mr Bigs" of the drug trade.

So far this year 24 people have died in SA from heroin overdoses, compared
with 34 for the whole of last year.

Mr Brown said: "We are determined to reduce the impact of one of the most
serious social problems confronting South Australians today."

The idea of heroin referrals also gained the support of the State's
ambulance service, whose medical director, Dr Hugh Grantham, said it
complemented a new ambulance policy of forging stronger links with the IV
drug-using community.

"It's about mutual respect, dealing with drug users as patients with a
problem and not as criminals," Dr Grantham said.

Over the past 12 months, ambulance officers and groups representing IV drug
users had been involved in "an exchange of education".

"The problem with treatment in the past is that there has been the mistrust
of ambulance and police by users," he said.

"They need to know that if they call for an ambulance it's going to result
in help and not arrest."

The Salvation Army said it would support any initiative "which gave people
a chance to rehabilitate themselves".

"Trying to win them (addicts) over through treatment may be the answer," a
spokesman said. 
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Checked-by: Richard Lake