Mildura Weekly : Friday May 2 2014 Vol 8 No 26
Mildura Weekly – 02/05/14 5 www.milduraphonebook.com.au ment was made, that the Minister was doing something,” she said. “They’re investing all this money, brilliant, fantastic, but that changed dramatically when I read further through the press release and saw that our region had been totally cut out. It changed from thrill to frustration and anger.” While still mystified by the government’s actions, Ms With- ers suspects Mildura may have been left out of the funding loop due to the work already accomplished by Project Ice, however she stressed that Proj- ect Ice was focussed on community aware- ness, which was just one of the areas govern- ment money was being allocated for. She said Sunraysia desperately needed more drug treatment services, a fact which appears to have been dismissed by the gov- ernment. “If they’re (the Government) going to be unkind about the Project Ice work that’s al- ready been achieved, that’s one thing, but to then eliminate us from the other two areas of the funding pool?” Ms Withers said. “The second area was six designated hos- pitals, we’ll we’re cut out of that immedi- ately, and the third was improving services available. Why leave us out of that? It’s very frustrating. “We already know from anecdotal infor- mation, from what communities are saying, that they want family support groups. “I spoke to Sunraysia Com- munity Health’s drug and al- cohol leader who said they certainly have the (drug) users coming through looking for support, but overwhelmingly it’s an increase in family carers that they need support for. “I’m taking calls from fami- lies who are asking, ‘where do I go?, what do I do’.” Member for Mildura Peter Crisp this week highlighted more than $1.5million in Govern- ment funding allocated to Sunraysia Commu- nity Health Services and Mildura District Ab- original Services, both of which run drug and alcohol treatment services. “Currently SCHS is funded $890,000 to provide a range of youth and adult community services, including youth outreach and coun- selling,” Mr Crisp said. “In addition, MDAS is funded $730,000 to provide Aboriginal-specific drug and alcohol services, including nursing support.” Mr Crisp said once the Project Ice program had been evaluated, which was expected to be completed in coming months, he would ap- proach his government for ongoing support for the program. Ms Withers said despite the success of Proj- ect Ice, there was only so much that could be done without government funding. “All of the people who present at our pub- lic information sessions do it at no cost, it’s all in-kind support and most of it is out-of-hours. We can’t keep asking these people to do this time after time,” she said. “Where does it end? It gets to the stage where, if Project Ice is going to continue, we’re going to look at alternative funding models, we have to, which just makes this latest announce- ment a slap in the face. “Why should our people in this region be doing it for nothing in their own time, when another region’s going to be funded and have this delivered. It really isn’t fair. This commu- nity has certainly done its bit.” Despite the positive work of police, Project Ice and the raft of community services work- ing to tackle the Ice problem, which has been described as an epidemic, new trends continue to emerge, making more funding a necessity according to NMCP. Ms Withers said NMCP has recently no- ticed an increase in calls for information ses- sions from sporting clubs, stressing the drug’s use isn’t isolated to the stereotype ‘drug user’. “People seem to think there’s that stereo- typical user, but the most recent thing that shocked the majority of people is hearing about the 50-year-old farmers in some of the outlying regions that are also Ice users. There also seems to be an increase in girls using Ice, but we can only monitor and trend these things to a certain extent,” she said. By BEN PISCIONERI PROJECT Ice organisers have reacted angrily to Mildura being left out of a $34million funding package to address Ice and other problem drugs in Victoria, labelling the move a slap in the face. The pre-Budget funding announcement was made on Monday by Victorian Minister for Men- tal Health Mary Wooldridge. It will inject almost $31million into expand- ing community-based drug and alcohol services in the Gippsland, Grampians and Hume regions as well as outer metropolitan regions. Another $3.1million has been allocated to six hospitals to improve responses to alcohol and drug-affected people in emergency depart- ments. However, despite the rapidly growing prob- lem of Ice and other drugs in Sunraysia, a prob- lem that has put the region in the national me- dia spotlight numerous times over the past 12 months, Sunraysia will see none of that funding. It’s a decision that has angered the Northern Mallee Community Partnership, which overseas Project Ice – an initiative designed to raise aware- ness of Ice in a bid to prevent people using the drug or point them in the right direction for sup- port. Despite being praised at State level for the work it has accomplished, including hosting numerous information sessions featuring a host of expert speakers, Project Ice, which receives no government funding and is heavily reliant on lo- cal agencies, has seemingly been penalised for being successful, according to NMCP executive officer, Michelle Withers. Ms Withers said that when she initially learned of the Government’s funding announce- ment on Monday, she was pleased, but that soon turned to anger. “We were initially thrilled that the announce- Project Ice anger over government funds snub • NOT HAPPY: Northern Mallee Community Partnership executive officer, Michelle Withers. 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