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The ICE ‘epidemic’ real and perceived

Drug and alcohol services come back into focus

Language is a powerful force isn’t it? The skill to inform, while simultaneously scaring our pants off, is a skill usually reserved for politicians and their spin doctors.

Recent reports concerning the use of Crystal Methamphetamine (Ice) in our community are alarming, and when described by experts as ‘epidemic’, they certainly make us sit up and take notice.

Do we really have an epidemic of ice-users and increasing drug abuse in Queanbeyan and region?

Well, using a dictionary definition of something that appears ‘global’, ‘universal’, or ‘ubiquitous’, probably not. However it also depends on which street or alleyway you may be standing in, and whether or not someone you love is a victim of drugs, or a crime associated with them.

A recent study commissioned by volunteers of the Queanbeyan Community Drug Action Team (CDAT), included a set of NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics revealing that the rate of drug offences in the Queanbeyan region was actually 621.8 per population of 100,000 – considerably less than the NSW average of 770.2.

Alcohol seen as the greater problem

Despite this, a number of public perception surveys conducted last year by the local CDAT team suggest that the Queanbeyan community believes that we have a problem, most especially with alcohol.

The most common words to leap out of the statistical ‘word cloud’ methodology used by the CDAT team, clearly point to violence (public and domestic), lack of funding for resources, and lack of awareness, as key areas of community concern.

The CDAT study, which included 203 community, and 50 business surveys, and a stakeholder round table event, identified that the biggest problems for the Queanbeyan area were:

  • Limited knowledge about drug and alcohol services,
  • Limited access to services because of low numbers of services, lack of targeted services, and cross-border and transportation issues,
  • Limited funding for services and ongoing programs, and,
  • Limited collaboration between stakeholders.

Services currently available in Queanbeyan include the Killard Centre in Crawford Street, which provides drug and alcohol counselling, referrals, opioid treatment programs, and a consultation/liaison service to Queanbeyan Hospital.

There is an Alcoholics Anonymous Living Sober meeting in the hall behind the Anglican Church, which takes place every Wednesday from 6:30pm to 7:30pm, and the Queanbeyan City Council has also introduced a number of initiatives to help reduce harm caused by drug and alcohol usage.

Council services include Alcohol Free Zones, CCTV, an online community directory, hosting of family events, the Axis Youth Centre, the Community Safety Precinct Committee, Drug Action Week, and the recently successful ‘Breaking the Ice Forum’.

The Community Drug Action Team study suggested three areas which require future action in the Queanbeyan region:

  • Promoting community education about drug and alcohol services by: targeting schools, businesses and parents; improving existing resources such as the MyCommunity web directory; ensuring that the Queanbeyan City Council improves the visibility of the directory; and encouraging drug and alcohol services to develop their own websites.
  • Improving access to drug and alcohol services around Queanbeyan by:
    encouraging more drug and alcohol services to have a presence in the city, and encouraging alternative forms of transportation to and from Queanbeyan such as Uber.
  • Increased collaboration of ‘stakeholders’ by: encouraging more of those who are affected to have a representative on CDAT, and pooling resources to run community events.

While we probably do not have an ‘epidemic’ of Ice usage in our communities, we still have a lot of work to do in the region to ensure that our existing drug and alcohol services get the funding they require.

New service providers also need to be supported and encouraged to locate in Queanbeyan and/or Palerang, and all services must be resourced to run targeted programs for those most at risk.

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