By VINNIE RODI
THE Victorian Government has lashed out at the State Liberal-Nationals following news that an elected Coalition Government will build a $7million drug and alcohol residential rehabilitation centre in Mildura.
The State was also non-committal on whether it would match the funding should it be re-elected in November.
Member for Mildura Peter Crisp made the announcement alongside Shadow Minister for Country Health and Mental Health, Emma Kealy, PICTURED, last week, and said the proposed 18 to 20-bed facility will address a “critical need for residential rehabilitation services in north-west Victoria.”
The $7million commitment will form part of a package of new drug and alcohol rehabilitation services for regional Victoria, with the State Opposition also committing to recurrent funding for the facility.
Ms Kealy took aim at the Andrews Labor Government during the announcement, saying the Government had “failed regional Victorian communities by not keeping up with service demands for new residential rehabilitation beds.”
“Plans to increase the number of residential rehabilitation beds were axed by the Andrews Government when it was elected in 2014, and that meant communities like Mildura have missed out,” she said. “Waiting lists have blown out and in some places people are being told they have to wait up to a year, and that’s just not good enough.”
A spokesperson from the offices of the Minister for Mental Health, Martin Foley, this week disputed those claims, saying the Government was “taking action on drugs and alcohol, investing a record amount in drug rehab services right across the State so more Victorians can access treatment, when they need it.”
“The Andrews Labor Government is more than doubling the number of residential rehabilitation beds in Victoria – from 208 beds in 2014-15 to 450 beds when all facilities are fully operational,” the spokesperson said.
“You can’t trust the Liberals and Nationals when it comes to alcohol and drugs – not only did they open just two rehab beds in four years, they left the sector in complete disarray following their botched recommissioning process, providing less people with treatment and support, despite growth in demand.
“Each year, more than 30,000 Victorians receive help from our funded alcohol and drug treatment and support system. These services help people create lasting change in their lives and stop the devastating effects of Ice and other drugs in our communities.
“In our 2018-19 State Budget the Government is investing a record $260million – representing an increase of 57 percent since 2014-15.
“More than $40million is being funded to construct purpose-built drug rehab facilities in the Barwon, Hume and Gippsland regions – meaning that, once fully operational, hundreds more people in regional Victoria can access services closer to home, family and friends.
“A further $6.5million in funding will operate and run the new Grampians residential rehabilitation facility which is expected to open in late 2018 – providing treatment for up to 80 people every year.
“We are also upgrading existing alcohol and other drug service and treatment facilities as part of the $10million Statewide Mental Health and AOD facilities renewal grants program.”
The spokesperson, however, did not comment as to whether the Andrews Labor Government would match the Liberals-National funding commitment in Mildura.
The State Government has also remained silent on other Coalition election commitments made for the Mildura area, including a $10million pledge to the Mildura South Regional Sporting Precinct (MSRSP), and an $80million commitment to improve rail crossings across the State.
The latter commitment is viewed as vital to paving the way for a return of Mildura’s passenger rail services.
In regards to the MSRSP, Minister for Sport, John Eren, told the Mildura Weekly earlier this year that funding for the project would be considered as part of the “normal budget process.”