Wimmera Uniting Care welcomes Victorian alcohol, drug treatment reforms

WIMMERA Uniting Care has welcomed Victorian alcohol and drug treatment system reforms.

The organisation will be part of a consortium providing care and recovery co-ordination, counselling and non-residential withdrawal programs in 11 Grampians municipalities.

Horsham, Ararat, Hindmarsh, Northern Grampians, West Wimmera and Yarriambiack are included in the region.

Deputy chief executive and community programs executive manager Leeanne Thomson said Wimmera Uniting Care would work with Uniting Care Ballarat and Uniting Care ReGen as part of a Grampians Uniting Care Consortium.

"Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge's announcement is very exciting for us because we have never previously had the opportunity to offer this service," Ms Thomson said. "Adding this to Wimmera Uniting Care's available services is a huge asset to the community and to our clients.

"It will increase our ability to offer seamless, holistic care to people in the Wimmera, Grampians and Ballarat areas."

She said the organisation had only recently been told its tender had been successful.

"We still don't know the exact parameters around the specific local government areas we will service or what it will mean in terms of our staffing," she said.

It was Wimmera Uniting Care's second successful State Government tender in as many months.

The organisation last month announced it would work in conjunction with Uniting Care Ballarat to deliver mental health services throughout the Wimmera, Grampians and Ballarat.

The contract, which comes into effect on August 1, has created opportunities for Wimmera Uniting Care to hire more staff and extend existing positions.

Grampians Community Health will form part of a Grampians Alcohol and Drug Consortium, which will also be responsible for care and recovery co-ordination, counselling, non-residential withdrawal and planning.

It will work alongside five other groups, including Ballarat Community Health, to deliver the services.

The Australian Community Support Organisation will be responsible for intake and assessment processes.

Calls for change within the drug and alcohol treatment system triggered the reform process, which started last year.

The new arrangements come into effect next month.

In her foreword to New directions for alcohol and drug treatment services: A framework for reform, Ms Wooldridge said people who used alcohol and drug treatment services believed the system was hard to access and confusing to navigate.

"Service providers tell us that program and funding arrangements are complicated and prevent them from responding flexibly to people's needs," she said.

"Feedback from the community has been backed up by a number of independent, government and agency reviews, including the March 2011 Victorian Auditor-General's report, Managing drug and alcohol prevention and treatment services."

The State Government will spend more than $41 million on 83 adult non-residential treatment and support services in 16 catchment areas state-wide.

She said the State Government would invest $2.3 million to support the transition, with services such as free-call phone lines, support workers, professional development training for staff and a jobs board.

"Recommissioned services will further benefit from additional funding as part of a $34.1-million investment in alcohol and drug treatment services committed in the 2014-15 State Budget," she said.

Ms Wooldridge said further work on residential and youth treatment systems would be done throughout the year.

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