My matter is for the Minister for Mental Health.
Unfortunately, the latest figures suggest that even the COVID-19 pandemic has failed to slow much of the inexorable recent growth in both the demand for, and supply of, illicit drugs across Victoria. Seemingly, dealers, traffickers and users have all relatively easily found ways around the complications caused by the largescale confinement of people to their homes.
In fact, this latter point was especially well documented online in a 30 September News Corp Australia article. In that article, journalists Amelia Saw, Charles Miranda and Suzan Delibasic revealed that drug dealers and users have seamlessly been turning recently to social media (particularly Instagram) to conduct their illegal trade.
Among many other points, the News Corp report also confirmed that Wangaratta, Bendigo and Mildura (in my electorate) remain affected by exceptionally high levels of meth supply and consumption, in particular.
Similarly, the recently-released, latest edition of the Penington Institute’s Annual Overdose Report points to many further and related problems.
It shows, for instance, that more than 2,000 Australians lost their lives to a drug overdose in a single calendar year for the fifth successive time. This included a staggering 123% rise in deaths where four or more illicit substances were detected in the person’s body.
Additionally, more than 1,500 unintentional drug-induced deaths in Australia occurred just in 2018 alone, of which around 56% were in regional areas. As part of that, there was a 67 per cent rise in drug overdoses simply in the Wodonga-Alpine region between 2014 and 2018.
And, all the while, there is also repeated and growing evidence that Victoria continues to have a desperate shortage of drug rehab facilities and beds, with average waitlist times typically skyrocketing over recent years.
I realise this is an area of policy that evokes considerable passions in people at all ends of the spectrum.
But, surely, there shouldn’t be too much disagreement on the basic principle that Victoria would be well served by the more intensive pursuit of measures that encourage people away from a damaging reliance on drugs altogether.
Accordingly, the action I seek from the Minister is an outline of the Government’s current plans for establishing (and/or providing additional funding for) more drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities and services, including in a number of parts of my electorate of Northern Victoria.
In my view, more of these facilities are urgently needed to help break people’s drug addictions and dependencies – and the many problematic consequences (including dangerous and recidivist criminal offending) increasingly being caused by them.