Melbourne's Drug Rehab Waiting List Is So Long, People Are Moving to the NT
August 2, 2020, The Syndey Morning Herald
Drug and alcohol rehab centres across NSW have been overwhelmed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with waiting lists doubling at some clinics and delays of up to six weeks for outpatient counselling.
Many Sydneysiders are heading up to northern NSW to dry out, while others are undertaking day programs from their living rooms via Zoom.
The Sydney Clinic in Bronte, South Pacific Private on the northern beaches and The Buttery near Byron Bay are among those reporting ballooning waiting lists since the onset of COVID-19.
As well as drugs and alcohol, clinics report that patients are seeking treatment for sex addiction, compulsive gambling and general mental illness in higher numbers.
The Buttery's chief executive Leone Crayden said there was high demand for the centre's substance abuse and gambling addiction programs.
"People are ringing and they're more anxious than they were before," Ms Crayden said. "People are talking about how they're drinking earlier, because they're not working or working from home."
There are 72 people on the waiting list for The Buttery's public residential program, compared to 20-40 before the pandemic. Ms Crayden said that meant the difference between waiting a month or two and waiting up to six months.
The Buttery also had a six-week waiting list for out-patient counselling services in the community where it previously had none. "It's a really long time when you've made the decision to change and you're motivated, that's when you need for people to come in," Ms Crayden said.
The public clinic was running at half capacity because the double rooms in the old butter factory could only have one occupant.
The 'huge backlog' of people waiting for a public bed for drug and alcohol treatment in Victoria
February 6, 2021, ABC News Australia
Victorians with a drug or alcohol problem are struggling to access publicly-funded addiction treatment beds as waiting times blow out because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beating dependency is often a two-step process: weaning off the substance at a residential withdrawal clinic, before learning how to live without it at a rehabilitation facility.
One of the state's biggest residential withdrawal clinics, Uniting ReGen at Ivanhoe, in Melbourne's north-east, currently has about 90 people on its waiting list. People are waiting up to two months to access the services.
"We've never had a waiting list this long," ReGen's manager Rose McCrohan said.
"What's remarkable is that some of those people have not sought treatment before."
Odyssey House, which with three sites is one of the largest residential rehabilitation services in the state, has almost 300 people waiting between six weeks and three months to get in.
COVID-19 has created severe challenges for the sector, as social distancing measures have coincided with greater demand for treatment.
"At the height of the pandemic, we had to cut back our bed numbers by about 40 to 50 per cent," Odyssey's chief executive Stefan Gruenert said.
"That just allowed people to have their own rooms and to maintain some distance when they were dining and all in the shared areas."
While Odyssey House has since boosted the number of available beds, it has yet to return to full capacity.
"There's still a huge backlog of people waiting to get in," Dr Gruenert said.
But those seeking help cannot afford to wait too long.
"There has actually been a couple of people pass away while they've been on our waiting list which is not normal," Ms McCrohan said.
"We don't have the exact details as to why they passed away, however to have that happen a couple of times is abnormal."
Recovered heroin addict Warren, who does not want his last name used for privacy reasons, warns the "moment of clarity" when someone decides to get help for drug and alcohol addiction can be fleeting.
"We get in enough pain and the window opens where we go OK, I need help," Warren said.
"But then when we get told 'oh you've got to wait six weeks, and not only that you need to continue to call us so we know you're still interested in the bed', you know the window closes again."
To make matters worse, the sector is bracing for a possible surge in demand early this year from people who simply cannot wait any longer to get help for their addiction.
"There's a whole bunch of people out there that during COVID didn't go anywhere, they weren't going to seek any help and they weren't visiting anybody," the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association's executive officer Sam Biondo said.
"That's what I call suppressed demand, they feel comfortable now."
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