Victoria Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge
Health Professionals Given New Laws To Intervene And Help Those With Severe Drug Dependence
Victor P Taffa
New laws will provide better support for people with a severe drug or alcohol dependency who, as a result of their dependency, are causing serious harm to themselves, Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge said today.
Ms. Wooldridge said the Severe Substance Dependence Treatment Act, which came into effect from Tuesday 1 March, provides for a health intervention of last resort when all other voluntary forms of treatment have not worked.
A review of the Alcoholics & Drug-dependent Persons Act 1968 in 2005 concluded that for a very small number of people, involuntary treatment and detention is necessary as a last resort to save their lives.
“The Act is a last resort treatment option and research has shown that for this very small group of people, a brief period of hospitalisation and treatment can be beneficial and the difference between life and death.” Ms. Wooldridge said.
The new law requires a registered psychiatrist or addiction medicine specialist to personally examine the client and certify that no form of voluntary treatment is available to break the cycle of abuse that risks their life and wellbeing. A magistrate must also be convinced that a person meets the criteria before ordering their involuntary detention and treatment for a maximum of 14 days.
The Act has procedures to protect a person’s legal rights and ensure appropriate medical advice and services are provided. It provides the client with independent support from the Office of the Public Advocate and the right to nominate a person of choice to protect their interests while receiving treatment.
The Coalition Government is pleased to announce Depaul House, St. Vincent’s Hospital as the treatment centre responsible for the detention and treatment of a person who is the subject of a court order under this Act.
The centre will provide specialist addiction medicine and drug withdrawal services for a period of up to 14 days. There will then be up to six months of intensive case management support for voluntary rehabilitation to help deal with the addiction.
The Government will closely monitor the impact of the new legislation over the first 12 months of operation.
“In particular, we will monitor the impact of the Act in regional Victoria and ensure those living in regional and rural towns are able to access a registered medical practitioner when Needed.” Ms. Wooldridge said.
“The new Act provides a last chance option to receive a critical intervention that will offer medically-assisted withdrawal treatment for someone who is severely dependent on drugs or alcohol, and give them the opportunity to get their life back on track.” Ms. Wooldridge said.