The region’s state MP, Kevin Humphries, believes isolation can help drug users recover in some circumstances. (ABC News: Declan Gooch)
For Broken Hill resident and Indigenous woman Julie Philp, getting her brother help with his addiction meant leaving him isolated and away from his family.
Ms Philp took him to a rehabilitation centre three hours away, near the Victorian border.
“The farm itself — good idea, good intentions — but then we were told we weren’t allowed to visit for three weeks that we had to leave them alone with no phone calls, no communication at all,” she said.
“I didn’t really want to leave my brother there. I cried on the way home and I thought I’m doing the best for him. But all the way home it was heartbreaking.”
Julie Philp was “heartbroken” to have to leave her brother at a distant rehabilitation facility. (ABC News: Declan Gooch)
The centre, which caters specifically for Aboriginal people, is the closest option for Broken Hill drug users who want to get clean or who are ordered to by the courts.
If they can get a bed.
The next closest options are a four-and-a-half hour drive to Port Augusta in South Australia, or seven-and-a-half hours to Brewarrina in western NSW.
Broken Hill solicitor Rachel Storey knows the dilemma that can present.
Her best friend recently died of a drug overdose and she has represented offenders with drug addictions.
“Consultations we’ve had through community indicate counselling is not sufficient, there needs to be a 24 hour unit to provide detoxification and then proper rehabilitation facilities for an ongoing period of time for people to get off drugs,” Ms Storey said.
She said even when locals could find a bed, many rehab centres did not allow people with a history of violence, so that excluded ice users trying to seek help after committing a violent crime.
Ms Storey helped to form a group to lobby for a local rehab facility.
The group is also writing a submission to an upcoming NSW parliamentary inquiry into regional rehabilitation services.
“We had the council there, we had people who were users of drugs themselves attend, people from the health services, community groups, and just concerned individuals,” she said.
“But basically, what was recognised was that we need a group to continue on with this work aside from just making the submission, that we can’t let this go.
This is a town issue, and a far west issue, and it’s too important to just be dealt with in a sporadic fashion.”
Mayor, MP support discussions
Broken Hill’s mayor Darriea Turley said she was open to the town hosting a local facility.
“I chaired a forum on ice and had a young fellow speak and he had to travel into South Australia on his own,” Cr Turley said.
“It was incredibly hard, the family didn’t know what was going to happen to him.
“What we know is that Broken Hill has to make sure we have a voice and that we’re part of the discussion of any service development.”
The closest rehabilitation centres to Broken Hill are hundreds of kilometres away. (ABC News: Declan Gooch)
Nationals MP Kevin Humphries, who represents the region in the NSW Government, said he supported having a discussion about the idea, but said not enough work had been done to know whether a local facility would actually help.
“One [facility] was in Moree, where I lived, and it failed dismally because the service there was catering largely to local people,” he said.
“It was being misused, and people couldn’t break the environmental and physical ties that they were associating with, and were often getting themselves into trouble,” he said.
“So you’ve got to be careful what sort of services people are looking for and what people are wanting.”
He said local drug counselling options, such as the government-run MERIT program, had proven effective.
Need for family support
Ms Philp’s brother only stayed in rehab for three weeks.
He found it too hard to be away from his family and his home.
She said having a facility in Broken Hill would be of enormous help to addicts and their families.
“They’ve got their family which are actually going through the whole program with them — which I think would be an ideal way to go,” she said.
“And we’ve got to work holistically for our Aboriginal people because that’s the way we heal each other, with family around us, supporting us.”
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