Hunter has ‘ice epidemic’, MP warns

Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison is calling for more funding for ice addiction treatment. PICTURE: Marina Neil

Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison is calling for more funding for ice addiction treatment. PICTURE: Marina Neil

THE Hunter is in the grips of an “ice epidemic” that can’t be fixed with “hard line law and order”, Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison has warned.

The use of crystal methamphetamine in the Hunter – commonly known by its street name “ice” – is rising at double the rate of the rest of NSW.

Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show that in Lake Macquarie the possession or use of amphetamines in the last 24-months has increased by 77.6 per cent, and police say most of those statistics relate to ice.

In parliament this week Ms Harrison labelled the figures “alarming”, and brought forward a notice of motion calling on the Baird government to invest more money in programs like Recovery Point – a Samaritans led transitioning service.

“If we are ever to effectively tackle this ice epidemic an all-encompassing approach must be adopted,” she said.

“Law enforcement is important, but if we are genuine in our pursuit to stop this rapid spread of ice in our communities our criminal justice system must work hand in hand with our health system and not-for-profit organisations.”

The NSW government has promised to spend $7 million on ice treatment services and another $4 million on additional $4 million on NGO-delivered treatment and rehabilitation services.

Last year it unveiled ice treatment services in the Illawarra, the mid North Coast and western Sydney.

The money has been criticised in the past for offering only “token” funding to address the problem, however Terrigal MP Adam Crouch said the money had “enhanced stimulant treatment services” and was “building sustainable pathways of care and the capacity of non-government organisations to provide a local response and early detection”. 

Ms Harrison said there were “not enough services” like the ones provided by the Samaritans.

“I call on the Government to provide essential additional funding either for programs like these to be provided by the public sector to the mental health system and caseworkers or to non-government organisations such as the Samaritans and others that adopt a non-judgmental and supportive wraparound approach,” she said.

“Such a wraparound approach, not just a law and order approach, is essential if the ice epidemic is to be combated across this State and particularly in the regions such as the Hunter.”

Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said drug addiction was causing severe social unrest throughout the Hunter.

“Rates of domestic violence are going through the roof,” she said.

“Children and families are being placed at risk due to the insidious, ubiquitous nature of the drug.

“Families are being torn apart.

“One of the troubling trends we are seeing in my community is the increasing number of grandparents taking responsibility for the care of their grandchildren.” 

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