Pubdate: Wed, 23 Jun 1999
Source: Age, The (Australia)
Copyright: 1999 David Syme & Co Ltd
Author: Nicole Brady


The State Government is pushing to extend its heroin-user diversion program
across the state from next January.

A nine-month evaluation of the pilot program has indicated that it is
detecting heroin use in its early stages and diverting the users into

Victoria is seeking federal funding to meet the program's estimated
expansion cost of $2.4 million after it was endorsed at the Council of
Australian Governments meeting in April.

At the meeting, which focused on how to tackle the nation's growing drug
problem, the Federal Government pledged to provide money for expanded early
intervention treatment and rehabilitation places linked to police and court

Under the diversion program, people caught for the first time with small
quantities of illicit drugs other than cannabis have the option of a police
caution and referral to a compulsory assessment for a treatment program.

But possession remains an offence, and those who do not comply with their
treatment program are charged.

The program began in the Broadmeadows region in September and was extended
to most of the western and north-western suburbs in December.

Ms Laurie Bebbington, manager of drug treatment services at the Department
of Human Services, yesterday told a drug forum, convened by the Turning
Point alcohol and drug centre, that Victoria was trying to negotiate a
share of the money promised in April to expand drug diversion programs
across the state.

She said evaluation of the program found 95 per cent of the 75
participating users were caught with small quantities of heroin.

About 15 per cent of participants breached the program's terms, compared to
the breach rate of about 30 per cent for other drug programs.

Most participants, 52 per cent, attended only the two mandatory treatment
sessions, but 33 per cent had further treatment.

And while the program was successful in detecting people who had been using
heroin for less than 12 months (61 per cent), disturbingly, half were using
the drug daily or weekly.

It is expected the scheme will be most effective in drug "hot spot'' areas
such as Collingwood, Dandenong and Prahran. 
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