By LACHLAN MOORHEAD
TWO staff members from Hallam Medical Group who run a program to help people whose loved ones suffer from drug addiction have thrown their support behind the State Government’s upcoming Casey forum on the drug ice.
Family counsellor Bernard D’Argent, who started up the Vision of Hope counselling program, has backed the decision to hold the open community discussion on the insidious drug, which will take place in Narre Warren next month.
“I find there’s a lot of stigma about ice, and with drug use in general, and what I find good about this forum is it can help to break that by talking about it,” he said.
“It will give everyone a chance to speak about it – carers, law enforcement.
“It’s about empowering the community.”
The Good Sports forum, organised by the Australian Drug Foundation, will bring together sports club administrators across Casey, as well as representatives from the education sector, local government and youth services to discuss ways to confront the ice ‘epidemic’.
Psychologist Stephanie Chu, who also helps to co-ordinate the Vision of Hope program, said the ice forum was an important step in the right direction for the Casey community.
“Any form of educating the public is wise, one person starting the discussion can lead to others talking about it and gives us a strong ability to distribute information about the drug and raise awareness,” Ms Chu said.
Despite media reports of funding cuts to the state-wide ice forums, including the Casey event, it was confirmed last week that the Narre Warren forum at the council offices will still go ahead after its funding was reinstated.
Casey councillor Susan Serey raised the issue in urgent business at last Tuesday’s meeting, seeking to call on the State Government to reinstate funding for the ice forums across the state including the Narre Warren event.
But the following day it was announced that despite the cuts, the Narre Warren forum would still run.
Cr Serey also proposed that the council write to the Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley to express the council’s disappointment in the cancelled funding for some of the state’s other ice forums.
The councillor’s colleagues unanimously supported Cr Serey’s motion.
Referring to Labor’s Ice Intervention plan, Mr Foley said the government would “confront this crisis on our streets and at its source”.
“We take the ice epidemic confronting Victoria very seriously. This drug is killing Victorians, ruining lives and destroying families,” he said.
“The Andrews Labor Government is determined to tackle this scourge across the state.”
Ice has been linked to 32 murder investigations in Victoria from 2012 to 2013, while the state’s Coroners Court has found deaths where methamphetamine was present increased from 66 in 2006 to 166 in 2013.
As part of its Ice Intervention plan, the Andrews government has promised $15 million in funding for new drug and booze buses, as well as $500,000 to help set up grassroots action groups throughout regional Victoria.
The Casey ice forum will be held on Wednesday 11 March in the City of Casey Council Chambers between 6pm and 8.30pm.